Usually, during this last holiday weekend, I perform with the Indianapolis Jazz Orchestra (the “big band” I’ve been singing with since 2000) one July, at a private event in a beautiful retirement community in Indianapolis we played all the songs we play every year at this time: Glenn Miller, George M. Cohan, John Philip Sousa, etc. There was ice cream, grand-kids, lemonade and fireworks. And of course, one of the highlights is to play the Military Service songs and have any audience members who served to stand at their song…like we did this last Sunday morning during our outdoor worship. It was a good, all-American kind of evening.
As I left, walking through the crowd, arranging their chairs for the fireworks, a man stopped me by touching my arm. He was surrounded by his kids and grand-kids. He pulled me aside and thanked me for the music and asked if I had served in the military (my short hair). I said that I hadn’t, but that I was the son of an Army Veteran. Then he asked, “Where did he serve, and did he tell you what he did, and share stories?”
“Well, yes,” I said, “He was a peace-time Vet in Germany and Korea…and he told me quite a few things.”
Then he asked me a question that I wasn’t expecting: “Have you told YOUR children?” He asked. “Because,” he said, “It’s important to keep telling the stories.”
He continued just for a short time, before his family led him away, obviously thinking that he had taken too much of my time. But before he let me go, he said, “We need to remember…and we need to tell our children…and they need to tell theirs.”
I walked to my car wrapping my head around this conversation that took less than a couple of minutes, probably…as it affected me.
“We need to remember, and we need to tell.”
In this time and place, with renewed questions about truth in the news media, is it possible that families and generations become the care-takers of history…as it always used to be? Is there, or should there be, a responsibility to tell our stories to each generation so that they remember?
Yesterday I listened to an historian on the radio. He was saying how important it is to remember the story of the United States, because we are “losing our core”, as he put it. He referenced a relatively new tradition in an African nation, where they get together in their neighborhoods, celebrating their National Day. Along with the dancing, singing, fireworks, etc. They “give their testimonies” (tell their stories). These are stories of their own personal survival through the genocide that rocked their people. These are first-hand stories, and the people who tell them say they are afraid their children and grand-children will forget, grow apathetic and entitled.
A very wise tradition, in my opinion…because it’s true: generations forget.
The Spirit encourages the “telling of one’s story”. It used to be that the Church carried that tradition out. In MY home church, Sunday night was a time when the Pastor would regularly ask if anyone had a “testimony”, and someone would stand and tell about a recent “God Moment” they had. Those times were far more effective on my young mind than reading the Bible…I KNEW these people, I trusted them. Age and experience has taught me that everyone sees their stories through their own filters, much like today’s blurring of NEWS and COMMENTARY, but I’m not sure that’s all together a bad thing.
The power of someone’s story is evident at Central Christian, when some of our Elders tell THEIR stories…it is one of our most moving seasons of the year.
Of course, the stories related to a nation’s history, such as the beginnings of the United States, need to be repeated. God’s people in the Old Testament told their history and made each generation learn it LITERALLY word-for-word, so that it did not get changed or edited with every telling. The oral tradition of the Jewish people is legendarily accurate.
EVERYONE has a story. Have you ever believed you have a responsibility to pass it on? Remember that as mundane as you may believe your own life is, it may have an impact on someone else that you could never imagine.
Central Christian Church and THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST) has a story…and our histories, or “core” (the reason our church began) needs to be continually remembered.
The story of America is the story of how, who and why we were ever formed. That needs to be remembered honestly and repeated loudly to those in power, and to the citizens of this nation. The story of God is the story of His people and their journey with (or without) Him…and it needs to be repeated loudly and constantly to His children.
Your story; why you were created, your journey with and without God, needs to be repeated…loudly…regularly…and given freely to each generation…we have a responsibility to remember and tell.