The Importance of Sharing Stories

I spent much of my day yesterday watching the Queen’s funeral. I was impressed by all of the pomp and circumstance. No one does pomp and circumstance better than the British! The day was filled with formalities, marching bands, processions, and symbolism. Along with all of the media coverage, I’ve also enjoyed reading all the stories about the Queen’s long life in service to her country and the lesser-known stories of the Queen as an ordinary woman, a wife, a mother, and a friend. Books, articles, movies, and TV shows have been made to document this woman’s life, and yet, it seems there is still more to discover about her 96 years on this earth.

            As I listened to the stories of the Queen, a virtual stranger’s life, I started to wonder about the stories of my own family. The stories of my grandparents and my parents, and how do their stories shape my own? My grandparents have been gone for decades now, but thankfully my aunts and other relatives took some time while they were alive to ask pointed questions about what it was like for them growing up and what significant events shaped their lives. These stories live on in books typed on typewriters and reproduced with mimeographs in blueish purple ink. I’m so grateful they made an effort to learn those details before those memories were buried with my grandparents. 

            What are your family stories?

            Each family has different origins, different inside jokes, and other joys and tragedies that have shaped that unit into what it is today. Have you taken the time to ask your elders what their childhood or teenage years were like? What were their parents like, and what events happened that they will never forget and why? Preserving these memories will allow the next generation to understand where they came from and who paved the way for them.

            What Questions Should You Ask?

            Sometimes we don’t ask because we aren’t sure what to ask, so here are some conversation starters that might help. Be sure to write down the answers you hear or record them on your phone.

  1. What was it like when you were growing up?
  2. Were you close with your siblings?
  3. What significant events in your personal life or the world were the most meaningful to you?
  4. How did you decide on your career?
  5. What is one thing you will never forget?

Think of this as a family treasure hunt. You may hear stories you’ve never heard before. You may find out things about your family that you never knew. You may even have an “aha” moment as you understand the person in front of you more deeply. In any case, giving someone a chance to share their life will be valuable and might even be life-changing. Let me encourage you to get those stories while you still can. They are more valuable than HRH’s crown jewels.

Written By: Christine B., Masters Level Intern

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