We ALL Are Family!
My brother once threw an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica at me one by one. To be truthful, I knew exactly the kind of look to give him to encourage his youthful rage—plus, being nimble on my feet, I was never in any real danger of being struck by one of those weighty volumes anyway.
All my brothers and sisters were, and still are, passionate enthusiastic people. We could dodge a flying encyclopedia one minute and be best pals the next. We could argue ferociously with each other, but heaven help anyone who attacked any one of the four of us.
We were, I'm quite sure, not much different from the families around us: loving and caring and giving to one another, and quarrelsome, self-absorbed, and petty—all at the same time.
Those same contradictory adjectives, along with quite a few more, have to be included in any description of our LGBTQ family, as well—not to mention the greater human family around us. We are complicated beings living in a complicated world.
As a part of the 2017 CAMP Rehoboth membership drive, the Membership Committee created a campaign designed to illustrate the diversity of our members by using a photograph, a quote from them explaining why they were members of CAMP Rehoboth, and a sign with a simple statement that summed it all up in one easy testimonial. Though we are a long way from the completion of that campaign the statements from its participants have been varied so far: I joined CAMP Rehoboth because the work is not done! …because CAMP is not color blind, it’s color vibrant! …because they celebrate diversiTy! …because it nurtures our bodies and our spirits!
Then there’s the statement from the Riley-Spillane family: We joined CAMP Rehoboth because we ALL are family!
John and Keith Riley-Spillane know what it means to create a family. Their children come from diverse backgrounds and with needs as unique as each one of them. John and Keith are some of the most giving and generous people I’ve ever met, and looking at the family photo I took of them for the membership campaign, I know that no one else could have spoken the words “we ALL are family” with any more conviction.
The LGBTQ family is a diverse one, filled with individuals who come with their own unique personality and often with vastly different experiences and backgrounds. To that we add the rich diversity of human sexuality: gay, lesbian, transsexual, bisexual, gender fluid, queer, asexual, pansexuality, and intersexed.
We are ALL family, but our family is so big we sometimes forget we are related to one another. All too quickly and easily we separate ourselves into groups who look and act as we do—and those outside of that group become “the other.” We may never truly understand one another, but we will always be stronger when we stand together.
That’s true for the LGBTQ family; that’s also true for the human family.
Around the world, the rigidity of left against right politics is damaging our ability to live and work together—and to have thoughtful dialogue about how to solve the problems we face. Here in the US, we frequently witness leaders who seem to have stopped caring about compromise, discussion, and respectful consideration of opposing viewpoints—who care only about winning political victories.
Politics will always involve winning elections, but great leaders know how to unite, not divide. To put a spin on a familiar expression by John Wesley, great leaders try to do the most good they can for the most people they can.
CAMP Rehoboth has always worked to unite the diverse elements of our community. Sometimes we succeed better than others, but in our attempt at unity, we have gotten to know extraordinary people along the way—and we have gained a better understanding of the true diversity of our LGBTQ community and the allies who support us in all that we do.
At the recent CAMP Rehoboth Volunteer Orientation, CAMP Rehoboth Executive Director (and my husband of 39 years) Steve Elkins, reminded us all that one of the goals of CAMP Rehoboth is to “be the heart of the community,” and that we strive to serve the whole community, and not just its LGBTQ members.
The great big CAMP Rehoboth family comes in all ages, races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations. Like the families we grew up in, we can be messy and complicated, and we can disagree and argue with one another, but at the same time we can be forgiving and loving and supportive.
Desmond Tutu once said, “You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.”
Steve and I were drawn to Rehoboth in the beginning because it felt like home, it felt like family. I suspect that a great many of you reading these words felt the same way.
With all the uncertainty and confusion in our world today, the Riley-Spillane family still says it the best:
We ALL are family!
Murray Archibald, CAMP Co-founder and President of the Board of Directors of CAMP Rehoboth, is an artist in Rehoboth Beach. Email Murray.