When we think of nature, we are tempted to think of only the trees and flowers, but we are wrong in that thinking, for there is nothing more masterful in the whole wide world than when we consider nature's masterpiece to be that of a family.

In today's hectic society, too often the pace of day-to-day life makes time a scarce commodity. When that happens, our family lives suffer and a genuine tragedy occurs. We need to stay connected as families -- both immediate and extended family members, for this is the most vital part of being an effective, well-balanced human being.

One of the highlights of family life, especially during the summer months, when school attendance does not interfere, is being able to spend time at family reunions. Without a doubt, no event contributes to or provides a greater opportunity for a family to unify than a family reunion. Hugs, kisses, tears of joy abound while our hearts echo the loss of those no longer in our midst.

At a family reunion, you can surround yourself with people who care about you. There, you can share space with those who have a common background, heritage and history and where the warmth and affection awaken a heartfelt sentiment that is one of the most rewarding experiences a human being can ever feel. Furthermore, the neat part of family reunions is the fact they do not have to "go back home" to have a reunion. They can take cruises, hit the slopes of the mountains for skiing, do campouts at the nearby lakes and rivers, meet at one of the relative's homes or rent a country bed and breakfast for several days, just to name a few. The ideas are plentiful with the secret for a successful reunion, whether it be family, class or business reunion, resting in the hands of the planning committee.

I am happy to report several weeks ago our family had this experience. We were able to renew old bonds, rekindle pride in our history, our traditions by coming together with a family reunion. We were able to see life's circumstances can be a little overwhelming at times, but if we stop and think for a moment, we can see we have an anchor with our family in the fact we are connected for life. For, in this great institution we call "family" can be found those who will help us when trouble strikes, those who reach out and give comfort, those who share our victories and the happy times in our lives, but they are also there, ready to pick us up when we fall.

The oldest member of the clan, now 99 years young, most certainly will be able to tell you, "I changed your diapers and wiped your nose" to her siblings -- possibly with a memorable tear in her eye as she shares the memories. And, the other senior family members, possibly gleaned a moment or two to pass on the wisdom of years to the young, while the younger people found a time also to demonstrate ways of new energy, new ideas about the latest dress styles, hairstyles.

Without family reunions, families tend to lose touch or unravel altogether. However, happily, this year, our immediate family came together as they shared in the recipes of family cooks in the newly published cookbook of family favorites recognizing and revealing the drastic changes in the preparation of family favorites. A little bit of this, and a little bit of that, combined with modern, up-to-date cooking utensils and equipment made for some drastic makeovers.

The two-day reunion concluded Sunday morning with family participation in church services at the same house of worship in which our forefathers chose to profess and continue their faith after crossing the great waters from a distant land nearly 115 years ago. Tones of the native German language echoed up and over the church rafters, making for a coming together of a family of, at least, six generations.

It is becoming more and more important to cultivate a sense of family unity as we see a continuing decline in family values and a sense of family unity. Maybe having a family reunion every three years, which we do, should be changed to every two years to strengthen the family traditions so we would be able to focus on the real things in life, such as family. It is important we instill in our children the fact the family is important. Kind words are great, but there is nothing like action to truly show people how much we love and care for them. Taking the time to come together as a family speaks volumes to the entire family. Committees can vouch for all the work that goes into planning a successful family reunion. But can we afford not to cultivate the bonds with our relatives, which define who we are, that help transmit our heiritage and pride from generation to generation? We have to ask ourselves, if our families are not important, what is?

High achievers of the family might find an important leveling ground in the social and economic status while for those who aren't doing so well, reunions also can provide a lifeline of hope, strength and maybe even open the door to a networking opportunity to strengthen ties that might have been broken by time, distance and just being too busy to have time for family. Sometimes we just need to realize and remember families, just as well as children, develop character by what they see, hear and are repeatedly led to do, and then, and only then, can we more readily accept and follow the fact the door of life is nothing to sneeze at.

Yes, it is true. We have to do our own growing, regardless of how tall our grandfather was. We can be the change we wish to see in the world and we need to remember the more things we do, the more things we can do to make changes happen for the better. Tradition should be a big part of each and every family. We bring our past with us to all new beginnings. We truly need to keep them going.

Nadene Albrecht resides in Russell and is a retired real estate broker.