Family Histories Make Us Stronger

ancestorsI am a hoarder. Not of things, but of life. I have a terrible memory and even at a young age had a hard time recalling things that had happened. I hated knowing that I had experienced amazing things and that they were just going to disappear. Now that I have kids, I zealously write down every cute thing they say or do so that I don’t ever lose it. I have actually meticulously designed an archive system for all their photos so that they don’t disappear in a hard drive failure.

But my hoarding doesn’t just apply to my own life, I also find myself wanting to preserve the lives of those who came before me. I love feeling like I am part of a greater story. We are crazy to think that our lives are solely our own invention. We have been influenced through a chain reaction that has coursed through the generations of our ancestors. Understanding who they are helps me understand myself. It also gives me valuable perspective on my own life. The rise and fall of the generations shows me that no matter how horrible something might feel right now, it will eventually pass.

Plus I know that one day I will meet my ancestors personally. Knowing a little bit more about them now makes the idea of seeing them again that much more exciting.

There was a wonderful article in the New York Times called “The Stories That Bind Us” that talks about how knowing about our family story makes us more resilient and teaches us that we are part of something greater than ourselves. The article covers some remarkable studies. It also shows how to create our own family story and how it can bring your family closer together.

There is immense power in story telling. I don’t think it is any coincidence that the scriptures are written in story form. Even young children can connect and draw important truths from those stories. They shape our decisions. They inspire us and define us in ways that a list of do’s and do not’s can’t.

So last summer when I went to visit my grandmother I scheduled some time to “interview” her. Each generation is a bridge to the generations before us. Once it is gone, we lose so much. Sitting down and talking to her was one of the highlights of the trip. I also got some great stories about my dad. Here is one of my favorites:

“I remember years later when your daddy was 11, his grandpa had a ram that gave him fits. We had sheep by that time and this ram. So your daddy had read in a book somewhere that if you stared them in the eye that they wouldn’t buck you. I was watching from a distance and my dad was watching and was trying so hard not to laugh. And your daddy was watching this ram up the hill and all the sudden that ram had enough and he just took after him. He didn’t try that again. It didn’t work.”

My dad hasn’t changed much in all these years. His solution to any problem is to read a book about it. Before the internet (yes, I am that old) I remember him dragging me to the library to do research on everything from what car to buy to how to play tennis. He is also still not afraid to make a mistake when learning how to do something. He knows that it is part of the process. These are both things that I hope my kids learn. And thanks to my grandma we can now add them to our family story.

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