Why Preserve Your Stories?

Stories help us connect with our loved ones. They make us laugh, and remember, and cry. There are so many reasons to preserve our stories, in fact, that I wonder why I even feel compelled to write about them?

Well, because I hear a lot of excuses about why people are NOT preserving their life stories:

“My kids don’t care about my childhood.”

“I don’t remember much,” or “my life is boring.”

The worst, in my opinion: They think that “the time will come” for them to share their stories. There is no sense of urgency, no inkling of how enjoyable the story sharing will be.

Lest you take for granted that “someday” you “may” tell your stories, here are five compelling reasons to share your story now. Please…don’t wait for “someday.”

 Everyone's got a story to tell when old photos come out of the box.

1. Stories connect us.

Stories uplift us. They make us feel love. Stories allow us to walk for a moment in someone else’s shoes, to see ourselves in others. Stories tap into the wisdom of humanity, impart lessons painlessly, promote empathy. They unite us—family members, loved ones, future generations…all.

2. Family stories are gifts to our children.

Most kids don’t think of their parents as people—you know, people beyond Mom and Dad. Not until you begin sharing stories with them of who you are, and how you got here. And those stories won’t merely entertain your kids, but also empower them to be undeniably more resilient.

Studies show that kids with a knowledge of family history have higher self-esteem, lower levels of anxiety, and fewer behavioral problems. Children of parents who regularly reminisce about their own childhoods have been shown to be more empathetic to others. And teens who have been exposed to family stories are more confident, with better coping skills.

While an heirloom book preserves your family stories for generations, it’s the telling and retelling around the family dinner table that creates your family lore.

And, unlike story books, a family story is always on hand. “You don’t even need to have the lights on to share with your child a story about your day, about their day, about your childhood or their grandma’s,” writes Elaine Reese in The Atlantic. “Family stories can continue to be part of a parent’s daily interactions with their children into adolescence, long past the age of the bedtime story.”

And when the kids are all grown up? Well, dare I say they will appreciate your stories even more! They may have questions, or add texture with stories from their own experience.

Together you are weaving the fabric of your family’s legacy.

3. Stories keep alive in spirit those who have passed.

In the aftermath of loss, we are surrounded by others who share our grief. We are not shy about remembering—out loud—our loved one. We tell stories, and relish when we hear stories we had not heard before. When we learn something new, no matter how small, about our deceased loved one, we grasp it tightly, cherish it as a most special gift.

Capturing those stories and your own memories about a loved one who has died to preserve in an heirloom book is one way to ensure your loved one’s legacy.

The process—talking about that person to a ready listener—can also be healing in and of itself (I know from experience).

Shared memories are a gift. And when you preserve them in a book that you and future generations will lovingly revisit, you ensure that those memories will continue to be cherished.

4. Storytelling will enrich your life.

Sharing stories with those you love is enriching, plain and simple. Whether you are telling tales of struggle and triumph, love and loss, hardship and pain, rollicking good fun and misadventures…whatever directions your stories veer, they will be welcomed.

There is joy in the telling, and gratitude in the receiving. Storytelling can be cathartic, healing, challenging, difficult. Always, though, storytelling will be rewarding.

5. Memories matter.

Stories are getting lost at a tragic rate. More than 300 World War II veterans pass away each day in America. The number of Jewish Holocaust survivors is fewer than 100,000 worldwide. And for more than a century immigrants have arrived in our country in search of a better life, then fail to pass on stories of their experiences before—it’s as if they have shut a door on the past.

It is becoming the responsibility of the next generations to maintain the memories—and to tell our own stories.

You matter. Your stories are important to somebody—probably many somebodies.

“Just watch...It’s a Wonderful Life to see how many ways one life touches so many others,” writes John Bond in The Story of You.

What will our grandkids and great-grandkids know of us?

Tell your stories. Be generous with them. As we tell our young kids, “It’s good to share.”