WASHINGTON (Catholic Online) - Memories are powerful things. They can build us up or tear us down. If used as a positive force, they can help change the world. When you make a memory as a family, you are investing in a legacy that will be passed down for generations.
Many years ago my wife and I took a class in “Ministry to Families.” Our professor made a statement at the beginning of one of the classes that found a permanent lodging in our hearts and family practice. He simply said, “The best gift you can give your children is memories.”
Memories are not just images of the past. They can be indelible marks of value and virtue. They can have a part in forming and fashioning us long into our adult years.
Some of them, unfortunately, can be long-lasting remembrances of abuse and neglect. Everyone grows up with memories of the past, whether parents intend to make them or not. When we understand the power of memories, we become more aware of how important they are and how we can harness this special gift in a positive way.
My wife and I spent a lot of time “making a memory” with our children. These memories have become a treasure for the two of us, as well as our kids. They continue to define us as a family and have become a part of the legacy we can also pass along to our grandchildren and generations beyond.
Just the other night our oldest daughter called. After putting her children to bed she began thinking about Christmases long past. She remembered a certain Christmas Eve tradition that we had practiced for several years. Arriving home from an evening out, we listened to here voicemail, as she described in detail this wonderful family memory which had come back to her.
Here are a few thoughts that will help you “make a memory” with your family.
1. Choose just a few special activities that you can repeat yearly.
Doing something once is not a trend but it can be the beginning of a great memory. Often great family memories are built accidentally, where an event takes on special meaning. When this happens, consider making the event an annual activity.
When our children were young we lived in a college town. On Christmas Eve we always invited an international student who was studying at the university and his family to come to our house for a dinner after the 5:00pm children’s service at the church. It was a wonderful time of sharing. We made new friends and often learned how Christmas was celebrated in their part of the world.
This tradition began accidentally one year when we happened to invite a couple to come by the house. They had been in the country only a few months and knew very few people. We had a delightful time and realized how special an evening like this could be for a family from overseas.
Also, remember that memories work best if there are only a few to hold for any given time of year. Too many attempts at memories may trivialize them all.
2. Preserve your memories
Scrapbooks have gained great popularity in recent years. There are even stores that specialize in materials and resources for assembling great memory books. Sometimes the scrapbook is a family project, while in other households, one member has taken on the role of editor-in-chief of the book. However it is done, a memory book is a great idea!
In addition to a Scrapbook, other devices can be used to preserve a memory. When I was in high school I began my memory box. I had a cedar box that I had been given as a present and I started putting small items that were important to me inside. Even today, though the box is much larger, I still have my lifesaving patch, an award pin for high school journalism, and other things as memory hooks for times gone by. The inventory has grown over the years, but the box helps me to remember where I’ve been and what I’ve done.
A family can carry out the same idea. Mementos from holidays, family vacations, and special outings are placed in the box. At various times, the box can be brought out and the items can be passed around as stories are shared.
When I was in the Navy during the Vietnam War my parents sent me a photo album filled with images of our small town decorated for Christmas. There were also pictures of my home, the family, and our Christmas tree that year. I must have looked through that photo album every night for several months. It connected me both with my past and my future.
In this age of social networking this can all be done through the Internet. An online journal, photo album, or even a special Facebook page can become that special place where memories are held and shared. You can upload photos and graphics, write stories, and leave special recordings for family members to enjoy even if they are now living far away from home.
3. Memories are often best remembered when they involve serving others.
Some of the best memories a family can record involve service. Not only is it better to give than to receive, but a “giving memory” is better as well.
For a period of time my family and I became involved in serving dinner at a ...
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