I have been lucky enough to meet some amazing people and families in this last year. The diversity of people and their particular situations has only reinforced my belief that America fosters a specific spirit to blaze a unique lifestyle to achieve person’s highest potential. Central to a person achieving or moving toward their dreams and goals are supportive communities and families.
It has been truly inspiring to hear the stories of people who attribute their success directly to their church, community, non-profit association, family or a combination of all. Of course, when you read those words, you will immediately have your particular vision of what those support groups look like. I am no different.
The beauty of America is that there can be so many different groups supporting the needs of a population that embraces and celebrates diversity. All you have to do is go to Meetup.com, type in your area, and see a flood of groups meeting that support everything from Tai Chi for moms to small business networking.
As I am inclined to do, I often ruminated over our diversity and the social institutions created to support mainstream America. Government and private enterprise have realized that not all programs and products apply to non-traditional families. With the advent of some states approving gay marriage, the drop down box for the gender of the spouse does not automatically default to the opposite sex previously selected. I can now select the same sex for the spouse.
Slowly but surely the recognition of same sex marriage is spreading through the minutiae in documents, applications and benefits. After all, marriage, as institutionalized by local and state governments, is a collection of legal contracts condensed into a signature and an “I do”. Marriage is sort of like buying a happy meal at a fast food restaurant; a cheap price for a collection of individual items with a toy thrown in. To codify all the benefits that marriage confers into one or separate contracts would cost thousands of dollars, lots more signatures and no toy. Similarly, divorce, is a relatively easy, although often times painful, way of unwinding all the contracts bestowed by marriage.
There have been numerous studies, and certainly anecdotal evidence, that shows that when people are married they often live longer and are more productive. Marriage is an institution of support for two adults. It is one of our social institutions that helps people to achieve all that they can be, contribute to society and develop a network to support children.
The goal of any community is to have as little dysfunction amongst its population as possible. When people can pursue their lives within the context of their ‘self’, there is lower poverty, unemployment, drug abuse, crime and domestic violence. It is imperative that we support institutions and organizations that support people and not marginalize them.
I am encouraged that Federal, state and local governments along with private enterprise are recognizing the diversity of our population and making changes to accommodate the diversity. For some people it is not fast enough and for others they want to turn back the clock. But you can’t deny the love that two men or two women shower on their children. That love will make our communities stronger.