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How you can use greetingStory cards to share family stories during your holiday meals

How you can use greetingStory cards to share family stories during your holiday meals
The end of year holiday season brings families together in a special ways. There is always a lot to do, including cooking and baking food, travelling, preparing and eating food, football, food, shopping and giving gifts, eating too much and visiting with family and friends. Did I mention all the eating that happens at these gatherings?

While there is a different feel and routine during the holiday months, it can still feel like the “same old holiday routine” as every other year.

What can you do to make this year more memorable, enjoyable and fun? and not just for you, but your entire family, people who are visiting or you will visit.

When we gather to the family table for a meal, discussion tends to generally revolve around a couple of topics:
  1. Football. On Thanksgiving there are always a couple of big NFL games. Many families also have their own 'turkeybowl' tradition. Christmas time is college bowl season, so there are always big games coming up.
  2. Politics. Just because it seems to have infected every aspect of our lives now.
  3. family memories and reminiscing.
Regardless of your personal preference, there's nothing wrong with friendly football talk. As far as politics, can't we let that go - at least for a day?

What about sharing family and personal stories? How can the older generation more easily share fun and interesting parts of their lives? How can the younger generations do the same and feel comfortable while doing so?

Following are ways to do exactly that.

Use greetingStory cards as an 'icebreaker game' or as seating cards.

There are two ways to do this and both work well. Version one goes like this:
  1. As people arrive, give them a greetingStory card. You could let them choose from an assortment, or give everyone the same card, the choice is yours. Have them fill out the card and return it to you before sitting down for dinner or starting the official festivities (tip: if you are using an assortment of cards, instruct them to hide the cover from other people. That's part of the game later on). They should add their name on the inside of the card so you know whose story is whose.
  2. Place all the cards on the table, one at each place. As you eat, go around the table, each person reading the story.
  3. Here's where you can mix it up a little. When they finish reading the story, they can say who wrote it, or everyone can guess who wrote it. Both ways elicit some fun conversation, but letting people guess is always a little crazier/more fun.
Version 2: this is a great way to get specific stories from people.
  1. Use the greetingStory cards as seating cards. Write the persons name on the back and place it with their name facing the setting. Include a pen with each card.
  2. When they sit down, ask everyone to take a moment and fill out their card. Invite people to share their story while you eat.
In both versions, once the meal is complete, collect the cards. You now have beautiful cards with personal stories from everyone in your family. These can be scanned and uploaded to the Pass it Down platform where they can be shared with everyone who was there.

Play “Guess Who” with greetingStory cards

For this game, you'll need some greetingStory cards that have already been completed, but with no name on them.
Place cards in areas where people might gather to talk (i.e. the coffee table, the hearth, in the kitchen) before your meal. Invite people to read the stories and try to guess whose story it is (tip: include a post-it in the card where people can write their guesses). You can talk about the guesses during or after dinner. One thing to remember here, these stories can be from deceased or living family members. It's a great way to learn about both!

Both of these are great ways to get people talking about family stories while improving family relationships.

Photo by +Simple on Unsplash

How to tell "embarrassing" or "sensitive" stories

How to tell "embarrassing" or "sensitive" stories
When preserving a story people frequently will have sensitive stories. What do you do with these? There isn’t one perfect solution or easy answer, but Spencer Kimball offered some excellent advice:
“The truth should be told but we should not emphasize the negative.”

What qualifies as “sensitive?”
  • Stories that are embarrassing to someone
  • Stories that show someone in a bad light, or that point out dark or troubled periods where poor decisions were made.

Understandably, we want to protect our posterity from a negative view of us or a spouse or other family member. That is noble, and in some cases may be the right approach. Yet it is those trials in our lives that define and make us who we are. Without the context of challenges, how can we adequately comprehend the character of the person?

Consider these true examples:
  • A woman’s strength and rock-solid courage and amazing capacity to forgive are directly attributable to her years of marriage to an abusive, unfaithful spouse.
  • The ever-present patience and faith of parents were forged while dealing with the addiction challenges of a beloved daughter.

Sharing challenges and mistakes without dwelling or focusing on the negative aspects is a wonderful way to help others know that the challenges they face have been faced before. It will give others the opportunity to learn from your experiences.

However, there is no value to be gained by sharing what sheds negative light on someone, so leave it out. There may be cases where an experience is related with the understanding that it not be shared until a certain number of years has passed or until all those involved have passed away. In those cases, discuss as a family how to best handle those stories.

While speaking about Pass it Down one time, Chris was asked about people whose relatives had been Nazis and participated in their atrocities. “How do you talk about a story that should be forgotten?” he was asked. While an extreme example, there is an important lesson here.

Everyone has dark parts of their family past. You do. Do you want to forget about it, or can you learn something from it? If you want to forget it, don't record it. It will be gone in 1-2 generations. But if there is something that can be learned, what is it? Perhaps your responsibility is to find that lesson (or lessons) and share them with your family.

Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

How do I find time to preserve a story?

How do I find time to preserve a story?
People today are busier than ever. Writing - any kind of writing - is time-consuming. So, how do you add the task of preserving stories to an already full schedule, and hope to keep your sanity?

If you have an already full daily schedule, adding another thing like writing stories just doesn't make sense. I'm assuming that since you're taking the time to read this, story preservation is somewhere on your priority list. That's the first step. It has to be important enough to at least make it onto your list of things that need to be done. Here are some tips that can help you get the most out of your efforts.

  1. Don't write the story.
    1. We usually think of preserving a story by writing it, but there is no reason to not use technology. You can easily record a story using your phone to record video or audio. Getting in “the zone” for writing is time-consuming in itself. so skipping it and opting to record it might often be a better choice.
  2. Schedule a time and place
    1. Don't add it to your to-do list and squeeze it in when you have a chance. Preserving a story usually requires intentionally planning time to do just that. Whether you'll be writing or recording, set a start and finish time - even if it's 15-20 minutes - and stick to that.
  3. Get comfortable
    1. This isn't so much about finding time as it is using that time most effectively. What do you need to be comfortable so you can focus on the task at hand? For writing, you may need a comfortable chair and good table. For doing a video or audio session, you probably want something cozy to sit on while you talk.
    2. Don't forget to have something to drink or snack on. It's always more relaxing if you have a favorite beverage (probably non-alcoholic, but that's up to you) to sip.
  4. At the end of the day, you have to chose to be intentional.
    1. Story preservation is difficult because it requires intentional decisions and actions. Human beings frequently struggle with that, so we have to consciously and deliberately do this.

Most people feel that story preservation is important, but struggle to make it a priority. If this describes you, don't feel guilty, simply decide to do it, plan a time and follow through on your plans.

Start small. Plan on 5-10 minutes a week. Put it in your calendar and do it. That will give you a starting point from which to grow.

Photo by Kevin on Unsplash