Ok, that seems like a click-bait title, and yes, I’m proud of that but read me out. You’ve read me write about my family before and how close I am to them. I’ve tried to work now on my father’s side, bonding over DNA stories (my wife says I need to work on my British accent – it currently sounds like Dick Van Dyke’s great-niece had a baby with Keanu Reeves, who was great in Always Be My Maybe but I digress) with my Aunt Diane, but sometimes as the journey of life goes on, and you’ve been a few places, sometimes you don’t get to reflect on the stops along the way.
This leads me a reunion I had last Saturday. I’ve mentioned religion in passing, but never mentioned I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses (to those that don’t know). It’s not because of shame, but simply a choice to not use this blog for discussing religious beliefs (I’m more than willing to discuss in a private setting, here is not the place though). This fact however, is important for this story.
When I was 18, some twenty years ago, I went to support a congregation that needed help, in a language that I didn’t speak, but everyone thought I did. I stayed there for four years before going to another Spanish speaking congregation. Ages 18-22 are still formative years, and the friends you meet along the way, definitely shape your future. And that’s what the reflection is for, to remember a part of the journey that you may have forgotten after marriage, three kids, seven moves and a bipolar II diagnosis in a pear tree.
There’s something to be said for the unity among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Everyone is a brother or sister. Everyone tries to display love above any other quality, good or not so good (even bad, I’m told). That love (which we credit to our God Jehovah, who is love), is something you get, no matter what part of the world, nationality, tribe, language you have or speak, or horrificly you try to imitate some accent. We refer to ourselves as a worldwide brotherhood – a global family, showing love to all whether we’ve met them before or not.
I remember being able to read Spanish well, so well in fact that reading annoucements about brothers and sisters who may be “desaminados” became a highlight of a Friday evening meeting. I remember crying when the towers fell, discussing who among our brothers, died (only ever having known one of them personally). I remember lessons that will stick with me for the rest of my life, praying for it to be forever.
Last Saturday was the best pickup I had in a long time. I may be embarrased to continue to speak Spanish, considering that I’ve had a break from regularly speaking for 7 years, but all those friends/brothers (and sisters) in Hempstead, NY are family that I should not neglect.
Thank you all for your love and the memories. Thank you Loyola and Soriano families for adopting me (my parents thank you too, sort of). Thank you Acostas, Castros, Reyes, Mazariegos, Escobars, Montanos, and so many more for helping me remember, family is family, whether they are blood or not, but definitely when you share something as precious as serving Jehovah…
…and Ada, thank you for taking 47,245,206 pictures of the event. #hempsteadtakesoverhampstead