Something I learned from my wise mother as a young child was the importance of loving people like family – even if they aren’t.
In light of talking about adoption this month, the thoughts of my mother opening her home to young girls and women throughout my childhood comes to mind. It always seemed like a very normal thing to me, but in becoming an adult myself, I’m realizing what a hard thing my brave mother actually did.
These were types of people we had living with us for months at a time:
– A woman falsely accused of a crime that had been put on house arrest
– A 20 something who had a horrible relationship with her mom and couldn’t afford to live on her own
– A high schooler who’s family had moved to another state (she lived with us for several months to finish that school year)
– Several others who were unsure about what to do next in their lives
Having non family members in our house became a regular thing for me – and some of these people were easier to live with than others, but I’m so thankful for what I learned through all of those times. What I’ve decided to do with this information is to compile a few tips that will hopefully help you to love people and unofficially “adopt” people into your family, even if they aren’t the easiest people to love.
Tip #1 Remember that Everyone’s Different
Often if you feel someone is “invading” your personal life and privacy, it can be quite annoying to see how differently they live their life than you.
“Wow, you really just asked me that question…”
“It’s called a dirty clothes hamper, not the floor.”
“PLEASE quit slurping that drink.” (I’ve had to beg my husband to do this many times.)
Some things will be more annoying than others but it’s helpful to remember that you are most certainly doing things that are different from them as well – don’t allow the differences between cleaning or social habits keep you from loving someone like family.
Tip #2 Take an Opportunity to Grow
It can be difficult to grow sometimes in the comfort of your own home, but if you throw in a curve ball like we’re talking about now, you will have plenty of opportunity. I noticed in some situations the only part of my life and character that grew while having an extended guest was my level of annoyance. I was frustrated and felt invaded because of how different it made everything – I avoided sitting in common areas out of fear I would end up in a lengthy conversation I couldn’t leave, or that the complete opposite would happen and I’d end up in an awkward silence. Just taking this example can show that pushing through the awkward moments that arise can cause you to grow in character, and in social skills. Because I pushed through this, now if you put me in a room alone, I can basically carry on a conversation with the wall.
Tip #3 Show the Love
If you’ll look back at my list – you’ll see we had quite a variety of people that called my house “home” through the years. With the help of watching my mom, I learned to support and love these “family” members in the midst of their trials. Some were struggling with little things in comparison to others, but many of them had lost the love and support from those closest to them. I learned that it was not our job to enable them in their situation, but it was our job to implement the first two tips here, which brought us to the most important tip which was to show the unconditional love and support of a family – what they needed most.
When you are a little kid and are trying to learn how to ride a bike – you can’t do it alone. You need someone to support you, help you get back up and to encourage you as you pedal a few times and then fall over again. This is what it looks like when you are tying to love someone like family – it may not be the most shining moment of their life as they are in the midst of a difficult time (much like learning how to ride a bike can be insanely frustrating), but push past your annoyances, and instead, love, encourage, and support them through it. You will not only learn a skill to make people feel welcomed by you, but you will improve the quality of your life as you take the focus off of yourself for a little while and give it to someone else.