When my siblings and I were just youngsters, our father often told us stories from his Depression-era childhood, when he grew up on a dairy farm. Daddy was a sole son, so he had a lot of responsibility on the farm, but he also collected a lot of experiences that became grist for his story mill.
Although we kids viewed his storytelling as a means of our entertainment (and maybe Daddy also was entertained by telling them), there was a greater purpose behind them. He wanted to preserve our heritage for us, and he hoped that we would remember not only the stories but also the lessons they taught.
Sometimes he told stories other than “farm stories.” Such as Peter Rabbit. But it was his version of that story, because he always added some details that weren’t in the traditional version. For example, he might start out, “One upon a time, there was a family of rabbits: Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Peter–and Sharp!”
Having heard the story repeatedly, we knew that Sharp was coming, but we always interrupted him at that point to ask, “Who was Sharp?”
He never told us; we just accepted it as an unexplained but essential part of his story. We accepted the added character so readily that whenever he began to tell the story and commenced listing the characters, we all chimed in unison at the appropriate instant, “and Sharp!”
Part of our growing up included my parents’ instruction in important life values. The farm stories that Daddy told included, subtly, those values. Our parents sought to instill those values in us with the hope and prayer that they would one day become our values, values that we accepted not as theirs but as our own convictions.
Preservation of such values comes as a result of tales told generation after generation. Failure to tell and retell them and failure to listen to and heed them or to think lightly of them leads to their loss. I hope that doesn’t happen to our family’s stories and values and heritage. That’s why I told Daddy’s “farm stories” to my kids when they were growing up, with a few of my own stories thrown in for good measure. And I hope that my kids repeat those same stories (with a few of their own thrown in) to my grandchildren.
What about the stories of your own heritage? What are you doing to preserve and pass on that family history? Make it a point to tell or write down a few of your own stories, “that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Psa. 78:6-7).
Copyright (c) 2018, Dennis L. Peterson