These days much is written about the nature of family – what it means to be family in today’s world. But stories like Haruf’s and lives like Judy’s bring alive what is at root the basis of family life: love, friendship, the sharing of life’s hardships and joys, and commitment to stay the course with those who we promise to remain with – no matter what. These days much is written about the nature of family – what it means to be family in today’s world. But stories like Haruf’s and lives like Judy’s bring alive what is at root the basis of family life: love, friendship, the sharing of life’s hardships and joys, and commitment to stay the course with those who we promise to remain with – no matter what.
I have a stepdaughter, Judy Levy, who was recently nominated to become a federal judge by President Obama, and was recently confirmed by the entire Senate of the United States. She is now Federal Judge for the District of Eastern Michigan.

But that is only the current story. The journey to get to this place was a challenging one for Judy. She has been an activist for social causes all her adult life. Early on, when an undergraduate at Oberlin College, she “discovered” that she was gay and dropped out of the college scene for a while. She became a labor organizer in Ann Arbor, Michigan, organizing the kitchen workers and mediating between them and the university administration for fair pay and benefits. She eventually went to law school at Michigan, clerked for a federal judge in Detroit, and finally became an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Department of Justice, heading up the Civil Rights Division in Detroit.

Along the way, Judy committed herself to a partner (an African-American woman with a masters in education), and she also gave birth to three bi-racial children, the oldest of whom is now a rising sophomore at Yale University.

Judy has come a long way through a lot of hardship and prejudice to get where she is today. A remarkable journey of integrity and fortitude. And her journey, which we who know and love her celebrate with great joy, reminded me recently of a wonderful book I read when it first came out, a novel by Kent Haruf entitled Plainsong. In an endorsement of the book, Howard Mosher said that it was a “marvelous story of how seven extraordinary members of a tiny prairie community – two dedicated teachers, two young boys wise beyond their years, a pair of wonderfully idiosyncratic rancher brothers and a pregnant high school girl – come together, in the face of great difficulties, to form the most appealing extended family in contemporary fiction.”

These days much is written about the nature of family – what it means to be family in today’s world. But stories like Haruf’s and lives like Judy’s bring alive what is at root the basis of family life: love, friendship, the sharing of life’s hardships and joys, and commitment to stay the course with those who we promise to remain with – no matter what. Judy’s family and Haruf’s fictional account of family life also show the power and possibility of raising young children in a context of integrity that passes on to the next generation what it means to be truly human.

And we rejoice!