My grandfather, a man of modest means, left a treasure to his family when he died: his personal journal. He worked hard, did my mother’s dad, first as a blacksmith, then managing a hospital for people of limited means, then as a carpenter. He left school at 10 to work 11 hours a day to help support his family, but in his later years, he studied hard and became a lay preacher in the Methodist church. Somehow he found time to write down the details of his life along the way.
What a blessing. These penciled notes, later lovingly converted into a neat booklet by our daughter, gave all of us who followed in his wake a precious tool that enabled us to see into his life and times with a clarity that is priceless. It provided me with a valuable starting point for our family memoir, which I wrote in 2013. [Shameless commerce plug: The book, titled Jumping with Mixed Feelings, is available on Amazon in either paperback book or Kindle form.]
But invariably, conversations with with friends and acquaintances show me that few of us are bothering to jot down our memories, written accounts of our younger lives, to leave our children and grandchildren. Folks will cheerfully share fascinating stories of their life-altering adventures and experiences, but when I ask them if they’re recording any of this for others’ enjoyment and edification, most say no. Too busy, or more commonly, “I’m not much of a writer.”
Balderdash. Anyone who can write a phone message or make a grocery list can keep a simple, humble journal. It need not turn into a book. That’s not important. But creating for your successors an easy path to greater insight into who you are and were will help them better understand themselves and their world.
Tell your story; share your joy. You couldn’t leave a more precious gift.
Today’s words: If I was or if I were? Use if I was when writing about things that could actually have happened. Use were for things that on imagines. Examples: If I was in error, please tell me. If I were rich, I would buy that house immediately.