I recently read an article in the New York Times called ‘The Stories that Bind Us’. It emphasises the importance of a strong family narrative i.e. story as being indicative of a resilient family unit. We all know that society is made up of lots of different types of family units. Some people live in extended families or with family members close by. Others may live hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their immediate family and are much more isolated. They may have close connections with the local faith group or community that they belong to. Or they may be part of a small village and town where neighbours are their closest friends. Or they may be isolated with a small selection of people whom they can turn to.
Whatever environment we live in as human beings we have a strong desire for connections and bonds with others. But perhaps the bonds we most privilege as a society and a human being are those with our family and those we care about. The article I read reminded me how important it is to talk to each other. For each of us to have a sense of where we come from, what came before us and how we come to live the lives that we do. At times of crisis our sense of ourselves and our identity is such a crucial part of the resources we must draw from to make it through those tough times. Our own sense derived from family stories of survival, of determination, of hope and of overcoming past hardships. Each of our family stories are unique, not always filled with joy and wonderful memories but also past traumas and hurts and difficulties endured. But they make us who we are and they tell us about how our families and their families before them came to live where they do, build what they have and be who we are.
So go and talk, talk to your parents, your grandparents, your children and theirs and all cousins and aunts and uncles and close friends. Share with them your memories and stories and listen to theirs. Help them to figure out who they are and what they are capable of. Let those stories bind you together and help you to know you.
The more we tell the stories of our families – the ups and downs, the things we have overcome, the more we offer a story that will help our children thrive and survive throughout their lives.