I’m incredibly grateful for the many volunteers who help us do what we do – both in my own corps and, more widely, across Australia. Much of Salvation Army ministry in this territory is done by officers and paid staff, but a great deal – perhaps more – is done by volunteers.
One of our young volunteers recently came to me after a shift and said he greatly enjoyed working here at the corps and with his colleagues. He said, “It feels like family.” I commended him for his work, thanked him for his comments and told him how much we appreciated having him working with us.
After he left, his comment about us being ‘like family’ played in my head for a moment because some families are pretty weird!
As I thought across our corps/officer/employee/volunteer team, I wondered which one is the uncle who tells the old jokes over and over (probably me). Who is the competitive younger brother? Who is the grandparent always falling asleep? Who is the aunt giving out dusty lollies that have been in her purse for a year? Who is the cousin that snorts when she laughs?
And does being ‘like family’ actually mean we argue a lot? Does it mean we prefer to spend time alone in our rooms looking at screens rather than being together without screens? Does being ‘like family’ mean we can or can’t agree on things?
I guess it depends on what your experience of ‘family’ is. I grew up in a loving family, but I also spent a childhood watching The Addams Family (a loving family … but odd!), The Brady Bunch (a merged family of eight with a maid), The Partridge Family (who kept breaking into song), and Happy Days (where the oldest Cunningham child, Chuck, disappeared without explanation after two seasons and was never mentioned again!).
If I said your church or workplace colleagues are like a family, what sort of family are you? Do you laugh together a lot … or just at one family member? Who do you need to keep ‘sending to their room’ for some indiscretion? Who is the parent that thinks you can do no wrong, and who is the disciplinarian? Who is the favourite child? Are you a family that talks issues through or prefers to storm out and slam doors? Do you bond over something (sport, hobbies, food, music, etc.), or are you all totally different?
Being ‘like family’ sounds like a wonderful thing to say about a group of people, but it might mean the opposite! “You people are weird, inappropriate, argumentative, boring, petty, stupid and unusual … just like my family!”
So, enjoy your other ‘family’ this week. And don’t accept furry lollies from whoever is the forgetful aunt.
– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos