Generational thinking does not come naturally to most of us. By “generational thinking,” I mean intentionally planning and being cognizant of how our own actions, preparation, and decisions will affect our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
They will make their own decisions—whom they will marry, how they will invest their time, energy, and wealth. They will also make decisions about how they receive gifts of inheritance or access to trusts.
When we are long gone, the time we share and the planning we put in place will affect them directly, almost always in a positive way. Correspondingly, a lack of time spent together and the lack of instilling values may also affect them in a negative way.
A Legacy of Faith that Precedes Memory
Those who are grandparents understand keenly that sharing family values and time spent together are precious indeed. When talking to others and even reflecting on my own life, I am struck by how few of us personally knew our great-grandparents.
I do recall my Great-Grandfather Phinney, father to my grandmother. He lived in Tacoma, and we would visit occasionally. I was not of an age to hear and understand his values and beliefs or to even comprehend the adult discussion. However, I do remember warmth, trust, and character at an early age.
When Helen and I were newly married, we were often invited over to spend time with my Grandmother Alfie and Grandfather Roy, who at that time were in their 80s. The four of us would play bridge together, enjoying the lighthearted quality time that can only be had with a face-to-face experience. Our memories of those times were warm, punctuated with laughter, smiles, and the occasional soft-spoken words of wisdom. As a young couple, we eagerly listened to them, even while our minds were focusing on building our lives together.
To this day, I am confident that the warmth and wisdom we felt on those nights around the bridge table were reflections of what I felt from my great-grandparents in that small home in Tacoma.
Building Multi-Generational Legacy Here and Now
While individuals are indirectly impacted by their grandparents’ lives, decisions, and time spent, we, in turn, have that same ability to impact our family line. There is an old adage that says:
“Values are caught more than taught.”
We need to share the stories of the hard times—how we endured, how we persevered, how we got through it. We need to share the stories of our grandparents’ values, their commitments, their roots. When we share these stories to generation 2 or generation 3 down the family tree from us, we are imparting wisdom to them. In a sense, we are able to give them survival tools that we inherited from the generations before us. We are simply passing the torch and adding our own lessons. If we are fortunate, and if they have ears to hear, we are also able to give them tools for success, be those imparted values, life skills, or physical resources.
Generational thinking in the stories you tell and the time you spend with your children and grandchildren has the power to shape a strong family legacy. If you have any stories about your family generations, past and forward, we would love to hear them. Share them with us or tag us on Facebook or LinkedIn.
This post was originally published on August 23, 2019.