Visionary Optimist: Heritage versus the Whirlwind of Change


Heritage. We all have one. Some of us want to embrace it like a flag and wrap ourselves in it. Some of us want to run away from it. Most of us have enough diversity behind us to choose the best parts of our family heritage to use as foundation stones. These stones are important to help us cope with change around us.

Family Stories

During a trip to the ABC Islands, I visited a Cultural Museum. On exhibit was a family heritage display by students. They chose one article that represented their family story.  The students photographed the object and wrote a story about how it shaped their family’s life. A standup poster board was created with a picture of the student, his object, and his story.

Some of the students chose a wedding ring or piece of jewelry that’s been passed down. Those stories were about the love surrounding the jewelry and how each generation looked forward to having it. There was a special sensitivity in the stories about the beauty that love created in their family.

Other objects chosen were tools their grandfathers and fathers used to build the family business, such as woodworking, construction, and leather working tools, and farming implements. These stories told of the pride the students felt in the skills and accomplishments of their families.

Several objects were about everyday life.

Grandmother’s big cooking pot, that made generations of meals, held delicious stories. A crucifix on the wall had been on family walls for hundreds of years. A beautiful lace shawl worn by mothers, or a baby baptismal gown, made sweet family stories.

I asked my American middle school aged students what kinds of objects they would choose for such an exhibit. For the most part, they drew a blank. Very few knew their family history beyond living grandparents. I had to ask myself, are we so caught up in moving forward that we’re forgetting the foundations of our past?

Continuity is a very important part of our mind/spirit health.

Especially, when living in a whirlwind of change. Our current culture wants to throw the “baby out with the bathwater.” Keeping things that we can be proud of in our family history is part of our healthy identities.

I have a selection of delicate lace doilies made by the pioneer women in my family. At a time when their lives called for all the strength they had, to forge into the wilderness, and carve out a home for the family- these women took a ball of string and a needle to make small bits of beauty to grace their crude dwellings.

It was a skill they learned from generations of mothers before them. A delicate little piece of lace showed that a woman was present. In one form or another, lace making seems to be universal to women. I identify with the desire to bring handmade beauty into my home.

Recently I wrote a letter to a set of nieces about the lacemaking of their great-great grandmother.

She was so skilled that the Smithsonian Institute asked for a piece to display in the Washington D.C. museum. I picked out a couple small pieces to send to the girls. I wanted them to know the story of their great-grandmothers art.

These nieces are about to move to London, where their father’s been transferred. I asked them to take the little doilies with them and display them in their new home as part of their heritage. And the doilies the girls are receiving are going home to the country where the family originated.

After that, I realized that there are other nieces and nephews who need to know about family stories. Time goes faster than you think. Change is happening faster than we think. My husband’s grandmother traveled across the Midwest in a covered wagon as an infant. At age of 80, retired in south Florida, she stood in her yard, to watch the launch of space shuttles.

When I was a child, my great-grandfather showed us the diary and buffalo rifle of his uncle.

He was a prairie buffalo hunter and a lawman next to his famous cousin, Bat Masterson, Sheriff of Dodge City, Kansas. He read us exerts from the diary that is now in the Kansas State Historical Museum. It was an honest picture of the foundations of our family life and the towns we built as part of it.

No, buffalo hunting isn’t carried on in my family. But courage and strength to forge a life from the place we live are. The strong prairie women are worth remembering.

I can’t rely on schoolbooks or random historians to tell the stories to my kids and neither can you.

Do you have objects in your family that tell a story that you may wish to embrace? Pass it along. It’s worth remembering.

February 2023 issue

Bonita Mosley is a freelance content copywriter, artist, vision board workshop leader, and children’s book illustrator. All of her roles center around her spiritual gifts of teaching and encouraging others. Thousands of her students, from small children to adults, discovered art skills and imagination abilities, through her unique teaching approach. Bonita is also active in Christian Women’s Ministry in her church. Her weekly lifestyle articles appear in the Mulberry Press, a local Central Florida newspaper. She is married, has three adult sons, and is caretaker to her mother.

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