I am very much looking forward to a month of appreciating our UU Ancestors (our church theme for November) because we have some outstanding men and women in our faith whose life stories inspire both young and old. On November 22nd in our Full church service, we are going to invite the spirits of some of these ancestors (via some volunteer impersonators) to come share their story with us, so that will be fun.
This month in our “Parent’s as Spiritual Guides” class we read an article called Generation to Generation that asks the question: What are we handing down to our kids? In the article Bobbie Nelson (the author) lists some things that he hopes we are passing down to the next generation. Namely – heritage and roots, belonging to a family, stories, celebrations for creating rituals, risk, challenge, courage, compassion, honesty and justice. Now there is a list for you. Which of these things are we handing down to our posterity, through our example?
I want to focus for a moment on the importance of stories in our lives. Bobbie describes the importance of “family stories, bedtime stories, stories from great writers, stories from other cultures and traditions. Stories connect us; they bind us together with people everywhere. They rekindle memories. They weave the fabric of our lives together.”
In my communications class in college we learned that there is no better way to give a person a sense of belonging than by sharing family stories. Children always want to know the particulars of the day or night that they came into the world, how their parents met, maybe the history of colorful characters that live on your family tree. If you are sketchy on some of these stories this would be a great month to contact that great aunt that lives back East and ask her to share the family stories that she knows before they are lost.
Last Christmas my dad gave each of his kids a wonderful compilation of his life story as well as the stories that he knows of his parents and grandparents. I will treasure it always. In reading it, I learned a lot of things about him that I hadn’t known before. These memoirs also served to make me feel closer to my grandmother Lena, who died before I was born. I have always been told that we are so much alike both in personality and appearance. Reading the details of her life really gave her to me.
Here is a tradition that has evolved in our family. (I enjoy it so much that the kids humor me – even my college boys.) Whenever the kids have a birthday I look for a quiet time of day to get out the photo album. The birthday person and I then sit down and look at all the pictures that they are in and recount all the good times that we have had. The kids like seeing pictures of themselves growing up, old classmates, remembering vacations and stories of the past. However you choose to pass on family stories to the meaningful people in your life, the reward is great.
Janen Wright, Director of Faith Formation