Connect To The Youth In Your Family By Connecting Them To Their Family History

Friday, September 19, 2014

What Would 365 Days Say?

Everyone has a "bucket list," right?  Some of us have them written down, some of us have an entire Pinterest board devoted to it, and some of us just carry the ideas or dreams around in our hearts hoping to check them off one day.  It's always interesting to hear the types of things people place on their bucket lists.  Just sticking to family related items, I have heard everything from "I want to travel to Norway and stand amongst the fjords where my ancestors stood" to "I am going to compile a complete Book of Remembrance of my life to pass on to my children" to "I want to find my birth parents someday."  All very different but all very personal and intense.  Those are all things that would probably better someone's life experience a bit more than "I want to go sky-diving."  Not that I am knocking extreme sports or anything.  But in the grand scheme of life, the more permanent stuff just feels worth pursuing, doesn't it?

So, before I wax too philosophical about our life journey to-do lists, I came across a task not too long ago that really got me thinking.  It doesn't hurt the thought process to mention that I feel like the goal in and of itself would match up pretty well with some scientific studies I am currently researching about ancestor connections and the effect that has on our intelligence level (seriously, it's exciting stuff).  The "bucket list item" that has me pondering lately is this one.  Taking one picture everyday for a year.  Look, we live in a digital age.  We think nothing of snapping away with our cameras and phones these days.  We document everything from our shoes, to our post workout hair, to our breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to our children or pets, to our most recent manicure.  The age of the selfie, in every incarnation, is upon us.  So, how hard would this task actually be?  In fact, some of us may be doing it already without even realizing it.  Many of us are probably Tweeting and Instagramming away this challenge as I type this post up.  But then I wondered, if we took on this challenge in terms of detailing one year of our life and our actual, personal experiences... what would you take pictures of?  After 365 days, what could a future ancestor deduce about you?

I suppose I should explain how this connects to the scientific research I am studying right now to make this question carry a little more weight.  A particular study (that I am talking about here) asked young people to think about ancestors before performing in some cognitive testing.  But it wasn't just "Think about an ancestor."  The direction was to really envision the day to day life of an ancestor.  What kind of work did he or she do, were they married, did they have children, where did they live, etc.  So, in my recent musings, I tied that into this seemingly fun challenge.  If you had 365 chances to express who you are to someone who does not exist yet but who has a very vested interest in the outcome of your life, what snapshots would you document for him or her?  What would those screen caps of your life say about you?  Who are you?  And how can you help your future posterity with that specific knowledge?

Do you know what would make this exercise even better, though?  What if you challenged a child or a grandchild to do this with you?  You could even do it with a brother, sister, or a spouse.  The possibilities are endless.  My sister even did this with her husband when he was deployed in Qatar. You could swap pictures daily on various social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram, rather than waiting until the end of a year to swap pictures.  Would that alter the kinds of pictures you would take?  What about your grandchild?  Would that change how you perceive each other or what you learn about one another?  Wouldn't it bring you closer to each other?  In fact, I'd like to challenge you to try this with your own family and see what happens (and tell me about it!) over the course of the year.  What a great way to interact and grow closer to each other and if you utilize the technology your children and grandchildren use I know it will alter your relationship in the most fun and wonderful way.

So, leave it to me to take something like taking pictures and turn it into a moment to possibly change the entire course of a future child, grandchild, or great-great-great-granchild's life, but I believe the idea has huge merit.  I guess the real point is this: every day of our lives is a snapshot.  It's a still frame of who you are and what you are experiencing.  That has the power to change someone else's perspective and life.  So when we're all "in the trenches" and thinking what we wouldn't give for life to give us a brief cease fire from all the stress and chaos and perpetual motion, just remember this--you are shaping someone else's destiny by your everyday acts.  Consider them closely, document them, share them, and rejoice in them.  People will be feeling your ripple in the water for a very long time.

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