I wear my heart on my sleeve like my dad. Our sensitivity shows in our eyes. Our posture changes with any change to our limbic system. Our eyebrows tighten when our environment becomes marginally uncomfortable. It’s innocent. But we are emotional, he and I.
As soon as I realized my dad would be speaking at our wedding, I began writing a speech of my own. It would be written to him, and it would explain how I appreciated the way he and my mom had raised me. I would boast about how he can sell any item, at any time, for almost any price. I would disclose to our crowd how much I praise him behind his back, and I would admit that I should tell him more of those praises. I would assure him it was okay he couldn’t get through his speech. I would remind him of his sweetness, how great of a fatherly figure he has been.
It turns out my dad discovered a chasm of strength hidden somewhere inside him that day. Not only did he make it through his speech without a single tear, but he also spoke with grace. We all felt like we had learned something from him.
In 2010 and in 2013 I traveled to Africa to teach English and math at a small school in Kenya. While there I visited a group of people called The Maasai. They live within the seemingly infinite confines of the Maasai Mara. Our cultures, theirs and mine, are virtually opposite–neither right, neither wrong.
Oftentimes the men leave the Maasai village for long periods of time to hunt. Oftentimes those men are married. If their wives sleep with another man in that time, it isn’t scrutinized. If their wives happen to become pregnant near that time, paternity isn’t scrutinized. The Maasai obey a philosophy that accepts all children as village children. Their biological parents are simply that: biological. The entire village raises the child. The entire village teaches the child. The entire village challenges the child. The entire village is the child’s family, the child’s home. Neither is one without the other.
Towards the end of my dad’s speech, he requested that Jared and I look around. This is your village, he said. We realized the family and friends we sat and admired have all helped raise us. They have helped in a tremendous way. They have taught us something. They have challenged us. We have needed each of them, and perhaps they have needed us, too.
We are the children of a beautiful, heterogeneous and faithful village. We were reminded of that on our wedding day. I hope our village continues to grow, continues to teach one another, and continues to challenge one another. I hope our village continues to listen and forgive, to be creative, and to be whole.
All wedding photos by L.A. Photography