Everyone has a story and here’s how I’m sharing mine with my offspring

I’ve often wondered how or why ancient peoples did such a remarkable job of passing along oral histories from generation to generation. By contrast, those of us with access to an abundance of contemporary technological and communications channels really do a poor job of passing along personal life experiences to our children and grandchildren.

To that point, I was recently talking to my brother about our deceased parents. When neither of us knew the answer to some of the questions we were discussing, my brother turned to me and said, “Why didn’t we ask Mom and Dad while they were still alive?”

I suspect many of us of a certain age have had similar conversations. “Why didn’t we ask?” 

I am sharing this because my daughter gave me a wonderful solution last Christmas. It’s a program called Storyworth. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. The concept is quite simple. Once a week for a year, she sends me a question about my life. It might be what do I remember about my grandparents? What was I like as a teenager? What was the most exciting “adventure” I ever experienced? Did I ever get in trouble in school? (OK, that was a loaded question if ever there was one.)

Well, you get the idea. And at the end of the year, all of these questions became chapters of a book about my life.

Throughout the course of the year, it was my responsibility to provide answers, find relevant pictures, and simply lay out a storyline of my life so far. I was encouraged to be as brief or as detailed as warranted by the question and its personal relevance.

I won’t say this process was easy. Even as an experienced writer, I was challenged to dig deeply into the recesses of my aging memory to provide the appropriate responses. It was often very time-consuming. Yet it triggered some wonderful memories. Hopefully those memories were not just meaningful to me to recall but potentially of interest to my grandchildren and possibly even their children. 

They say everyone has a story. I believe that is true. But I would add that some stories are inherently more interesting than others. Although I have been blessed in many ways during my personal and professional life, I hardly consider my story to be exceptional. Certainly there are thousands of people with more interesting or meaningful personal histories.

 Still, I am grateful to my daughter for this special gift. And maybe, on some future day, she and her children won’t be left wondering about some aspect of my life – and won’t need to ask themselves, “Why didn’t we ask?”