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The Addams Family Has Nothing On My Family

One of the stories that gets  told and re-told every time my family is together is how I was switched at birth.

Truth be told, the story really isn’t all that interesting. I never actually got sent home with the wrong family. There were only two babies born in the rural Montana hospital that day, and I was over eight pounds while the other baby girl was much smaller. So in reality, there was never any significant confusion. The hospital was just so small and births were so infrequent that wristbands weren’t used. As a result, my parents were handed the wrong baby when they were getting ready to leave.

But even though the circumstances weren’t all that dramatic, there were times growing up when I was convinced that I was living with the wrong family. I was sure my dad made a mistake when he told hospital staff that they had given him the wrong baby.  At least, I really, really wished this, and I fantasized that someday my real family, the ranchers  in Montana, would come rescue me from my plight.

Putting aside the obvious family resemblances, I was convinced that there was no way I could actually be related to the people I was being forced to live with. They were just too weird, and even worse, they were making me weird.  I knew this because I spent a lot of time comparing our family to other families.

There was simply no doubt.  We were abnormal: my parents didn’t care about the things other parents cared about; they had different expectations and priorities for my brother and me; they didn’t listen to popular music; they rarely watched any television other than PBS; they didn’t care about pop culture and they would express opinions that were outside the norm of suburbia.  Even the food we ate was weird.

There were times when the hopelessness of my situation got so bad that I would secretly watch an episode of the Addams Family just because it made me feel a little bit better. But only a little bit, because I knew the Addams Family was fictional, while my family was real. Besides, my mother never approved of such frivolous shows.

But, like so many other situations in life, I grew up and got some perspective.

I’m not saying I completely overcame my compulsive need to compare myself to others and to worry that I was a bit off kilter (I always have been and always will be), but I did realize that there really is no such thing as normal. Most people spend a lot of time and energy putting up appearances rather than truly engaging in the world. I was raised in a family that just didn’t worry about what other people thought and lived accordingly. Because of that, it took me a long time to figure out how much other people were trying to cover up.

I’ll never forget an incident that occurred when my children were small. They had been invited to a birthday party at the home of someone who I thought had it all together. Not only did she have a career, but she was always talking about the amazing meals she cooked, how she was decorating her home and how her children were exceeding at a variety of activities.  At that point in my life, I was feeling accomplished if I arrived at work with matching shoes and if my children were fed before I collapsed in the evening.

Needless to say, I didn’t want to go to the party. But I did.

I don’t remember much about the actual event. What I do remember is trying to find the bathroom and opening a door to a bedroom instead. At least, I think it was a bedroom. I couldn’t tell from all the junk that had been thrown in and piled up to get it out of view. This was obviously the mother’s attempt to make her home and her life appear perfect.

At that moment, staring at all that junk piled to the ceiling, I realized how many people spend too much time and energy trying to create an image of who they think they should be rather than simply being who they really are.

My family may have been weird, but at least they taught me the importance of embracing and accepting differences and imperfections, especially our own.  They also taught me that no great discoveries or great works of art were the result of simply following the crowd or doing what everyone else was doing. Great advances come from thinking outside the box and having the conviction to do things differently.

My parents innate ability to do this may have skipped me, but it went right to my children.  Neither of them seems to care about doing  what is considered to be popular or the “in” thing.  They are simply happy pursuing their own interests and are comfortable in their own skin.  I admit that I sometimes forget what I’ve learned and start comparing them to other kids.

Then I remember the Addams Family. Their neighbors and community members  may have thought them strange, but not only were they oblivious to what other people thought, they were also incredibly happy.

I like to think my family is too.

Reality Shows, Sports Competitions and Really Confused “Christians”

Either I’m really confused, or a lot of other people are really confused.

Not surprisingly, my sensibilities and my ego lean toward the latter.

Because even though I’m far from being a Biblical scholar, I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. And based on everything I’ve read and been taught, being a Christian means believing and following the teachings of Christ.

Period.

But there seem to be a lot of people who think that being a Christian doesn’t have as much to do with what you do, but instead has everything to do with what you profess to believe. On top of that, these same people seem to think that calling themselves Christian means God will give them what they want based on this “badge of honor” they proudly wear.

While this seems completely off base to me, there are a lot of people who believe the concept.

Just watch reality TV or sports competitions.

I’m not particularly proud of the fact, but being the dork that I am, I’m a fan of the television shows “Survivor” and  “The Amazing Race.”

(As a disclaimer, I watch these shows because I’m fascinated by the personal dynamics and contestant interactions. In other words I’m simply doing research for the book I’m going to write someday. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

But in watching these shows, I’ve also noticed a trend: every season, there are contestants who not only proclaim that they are Christian, but believe that because of this, they’ve got some kind of upper hand in the competition.  In subsequent episodes, they continue to pray and claim that God is on their side and, therefore, they have the advantage.

Call me a cynic, but I’m pretty sure God’s top priorities have nothing to do with who wins a reality TV show.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m in the minority, though, since a lot of people are buying into this whole “Christians have the upper hand in pretty much pointless competitions” theory.

I’ve seen it time and time again in sports.  Athletes describe themselves as  “a Christian,” and because of that, they claim God is on their side.

Really?

For some reason, I seriously doubt that God is spending precious time ensuring that the team that prays the most or has the most self-proclaimed Christians is THE team that wins a championship.

Instead,  I’m thinking that God’s top priorities have something to do with how we treat and care for each other.

But then again, maybe I’m interpreting Jesus’ message differently.  Because I completely buy into the simplified version shared by a friend the other day:  “Love God and love each other.”

I don’t think that winning a competition for money or fame falls under either of these commands.  I also don’t think prayers are intended to be wish lists for everything we want in life.

As my mother once told me “Don’t pray for what you want. Pray that God gives you the strength, the skills and the direction to deal with the situations you are handed.”

Makes perfect sense to me.

But then, I’m not trying to win a reality TV show or a major sports competition.

I’m just stumbling through life trying to figure out how to spend less time irritated with people and more time doing what I think Jesus meant by “being Christian.”

It’s hard, but on those days when I feel like I’ve made a bit of progress, I feel like a winner.

And that’s the kind of winner I think God is hoping we strive to be.