Reflections on Thanksgiving
For many of us, Thanksgiving is a time when we thank God for all of our blessings. I consider myself extremely blessed and regularly thank God for my wife Diane, my 5 wonderful and healthy children, our great country, and the many American men and women who serve in our all-volunteer military. I’m also grateful that we continue to celebrate Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Coming together as a nation and giving thanks in this way is a great tradition, one that I’m proud to embrace.
But Thanksgiving is also a time to remember the struggle of our ancestors, and honor their efforts to give us a chance for a better life. For me, that means remembering and honoring my grandfather, John Meakem. John’s mother died when he was five. He was subsequently abandoned by his father and sent to live in a Catholic orphanage. Fortunately, the nuns who cared for my grandfather gave him a moral foundation grounded in faith. And he worked hard to survive. After he left the orphanage at age 12, he picked crops and shined shoes to support himself. As a teenager, he attended night school, and at age 18, secured a job as an apprentice accountant. A few years later, John met and married my grandmother, Helen, and together they lived a great life filled with many ups and downs. Fortunately, my grandparents passed their faith, work ethic, and important life stories on to their children and their grandchildren (including me and my siblings).
Howard Thurman famously said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I recently told Brian O’Connor of Inc.com that as an entrepreneur and business leader, I’ve been inspired by Thurman’s quote, and started Forever in part because I believe that family stories should never be lost. These stories remind us of life’s important experiences, embody our values, illustrate important lessons learned, and become a significant part of our legacy. When properly organized, preserved, and shared with others, we believe that these stories are extremely valuable and have a positive impact on future generations.
In fact, a number of studies have shown that children benefit from knowing their family history. One such project, funded by Emory University, concluded that children who know about their family history are happier, have higher self-esteem, and develop better coping skills. The project resulted in the “Do You Know?” scale (or DYK scale), which asks children a series of yes or no questions about their family. These questions include “Do you know where your parents grew up?” and “Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school?” According to the New York Times, the “scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.”
Because of these results, Dr. Marshal Duke, one of the authors of the project, encourages parents to find time to tell family stories to their children. He recently wrote:
“In order to hear family stories, people need to sit down with one another and not be distracted. Some people have to talk and some have to listen. The stories need to be told over and over and the times of sitting together need to be multiple and occur over many years.”
As a community of memory keepers, we understand that it is a great privilege to preserve and protect the memories of loved ones, to appreciate the trials they went through in life, to better understand their faith and courage, and to pass those stories on to future generations.
So this Thanksgiving, hold your loved ones close and thank God for your many blessings. But also take the time to remember those who came before, share their stories with your children and grandchildren -- and make sure you capture and save all of these memories in your own permanent digital home at Forever.com.