August 4, 2023

Arrow’s D&I Speaker Series: A Family Conversation with George Shannon

Category: D&I Series

Author: Charlie Johnson

In August 2022, teacher, writer, storyteller, and children’s librarian George Shannon sat for a Zoom interview with Norita Cannon, a resident of an Arrow Senior Living community, to talk about what makes a family and how the definition of a family has changed. Shannon has written many notable picture books including Tomorrow’s Alphabet, Lizard’s Guest, and One Family.  

Norita shared family experiences, starting as a youngster growing up with a house full of siblings and a neighborhood filled with children, and neighbors that looked out for each other’s kids, like family. After marriage and going out on her own, she served all the positions associated with raising three children and being married for 50 years. This was Norita’s nuclear family. She also had a group of friends that married and had children around the same time. “To me that’s family,” Norita said. “I have two families, my physical family and my spiritual family.” 

George grew up in a town in Kansas with around 1,500 population and a traditional family of a mother, father, and brothers, but he says because of its small size, the entire village became the family. He commented, “That may be part of what a family is, when somebody’s got your back.” As a child he remembered classmates’ fathers dying, but he still considered the mother and son as a family. When his aunt divorced and moved back with her son to her parents’ home, he continued to consider them as a family. 

During his travels, Shannon encountered cultures where multi-generational families are the norm, making for very large families compared to what we tend to have in the US. 

“Family is much more than genetic connections,” George stated. “If you choose to be sharing, loving, and forgiving, you’re in a family.” He continued, “Can you accept them as they are? That may be the very core of family. You don’t have to agree or have the same mindset, but you still have a connection of respect and sharing.” 

Shannon says family encompasses what you are born with, how we handle it, how we nurture it, and how we open ourselves to other kinds of families. He concluded, “Family is the good, the bad, and the ugly.” 

“Family is what you make it,” commented Norita. 

Saint Charles, Missouri-based Arrow Senior Living manages a portfolio of communities that offer varying levels of care, including independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Each and every senior living community supports residents by focusing on dignity, respect, and quality of life. The programs and amenities offered are selected to provide only the highest standard of quality and comfort.

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