On Family Away from Family

Keri Olsen- Preparing for a Candler ThanksgivingI’ve been sitting here in Brooks Commons (where most of Candler’s lounging occurs) for about an hour looking at pictures of the three semesters I’ve been in Atlanta and thinking about what I am most grateful for within my Candler experiences (it was just Thanksgiving, you know).  So much has happened.  So much has influenced my thoughts and ideas.  I’ve met new friends, worked at new jobs, tutored and ran around a track with underprivileged kids, lived in two different places, worshiped in all kinds of churches, experienced God in new ways, participated in retreats,  marched in a parade, studied all sorts of biblical criticisms, gone to Braves games,  been to costume parties, fell in love with Process Theology, cried with friends,  prayed with friends, danced in chapel, truly felt in community while receiving communion, written more papers than I care to imagine, laughed a whole lot, and discovered more about where God is calling me.  See what I mean?  So much has happened.  But when I think of all those experiences the predominate “theme” I am most grateful for is the family away from family that has developed around me.

I have never been in a place friendlier than Candler.  Candler beats Disneyland, church summer camp, and an old ladies’ knitting. That’s because the Candler people I have encountered are friendly in a way that is concerned with knowing who you truly are, and they want to see you succeed.  From the first day at orientation I knew I would have friends and good friends at that.  Aristotle describes three kinds of friends in his Nicomachean Ethics.  The first is a friendship based on utility; the giving of love for the sake of someone’s usefulness to you.  The second friendship is based on pleasure; giving love because someone is pleasant to be around.  However, the third form of friendship is an exchange of love for the sake of the other person, not to gain any advantage for oneself.  Friendship like this third kind is superior to the rest because it endures with goodness and love for others’ sake.   This is the kind of friendship I have found at Candler.  The community of friendship, support, love, compassion and mutual experience has become a family for me 2,160 miles away from home.

The last two years I have spent Thanksgiving here in Atlanta with other Candler students (and their significant others) who do not go “home” for the holiday.  I’ve hosted the meal by providing the location and the turkey.  All the other dishes are prepared by those joining me, and the merriment lasts all evening.  Although I would still love to spend the holiday with my family in California, having a second family away from home makes the day special anyway.

Last year’s Easter was a similar event.  Although it sounds REALLY cheesy, many of us got together to dye Easter eggs (which we ended up hiding for an Easter egg hunt in the amazing backyard of one of our classmates).  After church on Easter Sunday we had a delicious pot luck lunch.  In order to make it feel even more like home we each made an Easter basket for one other person.  It is the effort, care, and company that makes these holidays away from home still worth celebrating to their fullest extent.

I know my friends here at Candler will pick me up when I fall in frustration and fatigue, because they have done it.  I know my friends here at Candler will laugh with me when I am experiencing joyous times, because they have.  I know my friends here at Candler will walk alongside of me during all the times in between, because they have.  And I would do the same for them.  Our friendship is like that of a family, and I am most grateful.

Here’s a little video of Thanksgiving with Keri and her Candler friends.