Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Stories that Bind us... reflections on an article

I subscribe to Reader's Digest.  Some months, it has been 'meh' but lately it seems to be getting better.  In the October 2013 Canadian edition, there is an article taken from the New York Times, written by Bruce Feiler, talking about the importance of sharing your family history.  Perhaps it is written in part to showcase his new book, The Secrets of Happy Families.

The main theme of the article is that "the more children knew about their families' histories, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned."  This was the result of a study by Marshall Duke, and Robyn Fivush, in the mid-1900's.  
"Why does knowing where her grandmother went to school help a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or major as a terrorist attack?  Duke said that children who have the most self confidence have what he and Fivush call a strong intergenerational self.  They know that they belong to something bigger than themselves."  

Perhaps this is why I have always loved to know my family history, and love geneaology study.  Sure there is more to a family tree than just names and dates, there is also a story.  It used to be that oral history was very strong but this seems to be dying out in this digital "fast-food era" as I call it.  Why try to remember the stories when they can be written down or recorded?  Sure but someone has to record or write it and that takes time and energy that people say they don't have, or knowledge they don't think they have, or .. care.

This article reinforces my passion for the family trees and I have begun to encourage the older generation to write things down, as sadly, I learned that when certain persons die out, so does a family's history.  My father's aunt was the last tie to his side of the family and their story.  We don't know where the rest are other than "Germany somewhere" or there are a lot of second or third cousins scattered throughout North America.  When she died in 2004, so did a lot of history. Sure we have her old photo albums, and while she wrote on the back of them the names and relation that they are, the story behind the photo, era or person is lost to my mother, sister and those who are left.  

Hmm.. maybe in my next career I should be a historian, but then I think that I was doing that with my chaplaincy work. Something to think on.

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