The Canty family of Pike County, Alabama is huge. Our FAMILY ROOTS book holds more than one thousand names that span 9 generations. We now know of several branches of the family that are not yet included in the book. My maternal Aunt, Ruby Canty-Rudolph, now 93 years old and fourth generation descendant of our first known ancestor, organized the first biannual reunion 22 years ago. It has grown from 35 participants at the first reunion to 350 at our largest reunion. The size of the reunion and the passing of responsibilities for organizing the reunion from one generation to another motivated us to re-look at our purpose. The question for me became “Does everyone understand why we are here?” Because family members often get caught up in the excitement of the reunion activities and the host group is focusing on the work to be done, we sometimes forget the real reason why we get together.
For our 11th reunion in Detroit, Michigan July 20-22, 2007, I wrote a one-page description of “What is a Family Reunion,” and it was distributed to everyone in attendance. Our plan is to reprint it in our program each reunion year so that we are constantly reminded of why we hold family reunions. The overall message that we want family members to embrace is “to honor our ancestors, celebrate and appreciate who and what we are, and pass on to future generations the strength and gratitude of our family legacy.” In doing this, we stress that the reunion is everyone’s reunion, not just the reunion of the organizers. It is intergenerational, both serious and fun, and we expect everyone to enjoy and everyone to contribute to its success.
WHAT IS A FAMILY REUNION?
By Jessie Muse
A Family Reunion is a gathering of generations of family members who come together in unity to honor the past, celebrate the present, and prepare for the future. It is reconnecting with relatives and friends for the purpose of fun, food, fellowship, and the strengthening of ties that bind us one to another. Our unconditional love for one another is reason enough to celebrate; for this love and our blood unite us forever one with the other. A loving and joyous reunion allows us to renew friendships with family and friends whom we seldom see and some we may never see again. We come to honor the legacy of those ancestors who sacrificed so much for our benefit and who have finished their journey here on earth. We come to show gratitude and humility for our blessings and all that we have achieved and continue to enjoy; and we come to present our hopes and dreams for future generations so that our family legacy continues.
With unity of spirit; we come to bond, seeking a future that has the potential for an abundant and enriched life. This is a time to promote peace and harmony; restore broken relationships; engage in thoughtful and caring activities; express love, patience, compassion and understanding; seek wisdom and guidance; and give praise to the almighty God for the opportunity to share an experience with a common purpose.
It is also a time for rest and relaxation, learning and growing, worship and prayer, guiding the young and appreciating the aging. It is a time for using our talents, expressing our creativity, and encouraging others. It is about working together and finding solutions, meeting challenges and providing leadership, seeking forgiveness and healing our souls. It is about making a difference in the lives of others, strengthening families, providing role models and protecting our youth; taking time to visit and share family news, sharing our knowledge and being receptive to new ideas, caring for our sick and elders and keeping us together. But most of all, it is about thanking our God and our ancestors for the privilege of being here.