on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

Like Family

The family we were born into is genetically branded into our DNA.  We simply had no choice in the matter.  Our mother is our mother and our father is our father, for better or for worse.

Of course, for many it’s not so simple.  You may be adopted like my sister.  And for a variety of reasons, you may never get to know your biological father or your mother.

But there are also persons in our lives who are “like family” because they play a significant role in our life.  They make a difference in who we are.   They become like parents, or like a brother or a sister, or like an uncle or an aunt.

Last weekend Mary and I visited Harry and Ina Durham in Clemson, SC.  It was like going home.

When I was a freshman at Clemson University, I joined the First Baptist Church in Clemson.  It was a rite of passage for me since it was the first time in my life where I became a member of a church where my pastor was not my father.

Harry and Ina walked up to me and said, “We’re both from Alabama, and our church has a student adoption program.  We’d like to adopt you if that’s ok with you.”

I said, “Sure,” without knowing what I was saying.

Student adoption was a way the church reached out to freshmen and gave them a place to eat once a month and have a home away from home.

But for some reason at the end of the first meal, a house key was put on the table and Ina said, “We’re not inviting you anymore.  You can come over anytime you want to.”  And I did, several times per week for the next four years.

And I am still going back home to the people who are like family to me after 37 years.

I’ll write more about Harry and Ina later.  Suffice it to say, they have made a significant difference in my life, and they still do.  I love them like my parents.

I wonder, who has been “like family” to you in your life ? I’d love to hear about them.

Or, maybe who have you been “like family” to othes?  How did it happen?  What does it mean to you?

Regardless who your family is, I hope you have people who are like family.

God knows, we need them.


  1. Janet Griffin

    I think of the poster we used to have that goes something like….”We need to have people that mean something to us, knowing that being with them, is coming home.” Thank you for this reminder Malcolm. I also think of Harry Chapin who sang….”old friends, they can mean so much more than the new friends, they see where we are and they know where we’ve been”. Because of facebook Malcolm…..you are becoming an old friend to so many people.

  2. Malcolm

    Janet, thanks so much.

    I understand about old friends who remind us who we have been, who we are now, and who we can be in the future.

    Your comment means a lot.

    Peace to you,

  3. Brian D. Vaughn

    I never in a million years thought, that by age 42, both of my parents would be deceased. I lost my Dad at age 24….my Mother at age 42. (a “numerologist” who lives down the street stopped me shortly after Mom’s death to convey her sympathy and when she realized the “inversion” of those two numbers….) But even WAY before my Mother’s death, friends that I met in the late 1980’s, Bill and Judy Bridgers, became LIKE FAMILY to me. I had met Judy through my best friend, Billy and soon thereafter, realized she was the SAME Judy I had seen volunteering at BAO. Flash forward about six or seven years, and after Billy’s death….and other avenues of volunteerism…the Bridgers became important players in my support system of friends who were truly more…LIKE FAMILY. I could usually get away with referring to Dr. Bill as my ‘surrogate father’, but was gently guided by Judy to please refer to her as a ‘surrogate older (barely) sister’ LOL! We’ve since lost, Dr. Bill but I still think of him at least weekly in some way or another… but how lucky I feel to have Judy as one of my special “angels here on Earth” for the love and support that you can ONLY get from folk who are LIKE FAMILY!! Praise be to God!

  4. Harry and Ina Durham

    How flattering and humbling to be the subject of your blog. You are such a blessing to our family and we cannot imagine what our lives would be like without you being a member of our family.

    Ina and Harry

  5. Malcolm

    Brian, so beautifully written!

  6. Cathy Brown

    When I moved seven hundred miles from home to attend Samford back in the late 70s, I was incredibly blessed with a “Like Family”. SU’s registrar was also my advisor and I had a somewhat similar experience to yours, Malcolm. They gave me keys to their cars & their home, would pick up & drop off my laundry and included me in holiday celebrations when I couldn’t make it home. Their three sons became my little brothers [never had one, always wanted one; NOW I had three!] Fast forward to the mid 80s when I met my husband-to-be in their kitchen! A year later, Dr. T walked me down the aisle and his wife, now my ‘sister/mom’, sat in the place reserved for my mother. My bio momma was my matron of honor! My sons have always referred to them as Gran-Man & Gran-Rozzie. Oh my! Writing all this makes me want to jump in the car and drive to Lake Martin to hug their necks and visit. Thanks for sharing your ‘Like Family’, Malcolm, and allowing me to share mine! ﺕ

  7. Malcolm

    Oh wow, what a wonderful story Cathy! I love it.

  8. robert gammon

    truly, harry and ina are special people!

  9. Malcolm

    Yep, Robert, you know firsthand about Harry and Ina Durham, don’t you?

    Take care,

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