This past weekend, I was blessed to be able to travel with my grandmother to the small town of Orrville, Ohio: the town my grandmother lived in for over 30 years, the town my mother was raised in and the town that is home to Smucker’s jams and jellies.
We decided to make the trek there to help my wonderful cousin prepare for her baby shower.
Every time we visit family in Ohio, the majority of our time is spent listening to the many escapades and adventures my grandmother and her two younger sisters had together. The three grew up together and proceeded to raise their own families in tandem with each other.
And to say that my grandmother and her sisters are three of the funniest people you’ll ever meet is an understatement. Their ability to spin stories is unparalleled and gets stronger with age. They love to laugh at each other and themselves.
What they embody when they are together is the power of storytelling. From a young age, I remember sitting at a table, surrounded by various cousins, aunts and uncles, just listening to the three of them weave stories ranging from strange diet fads to cooking disasters to countless almost-house fires started by the many children running around.
Although many of the stories they tell are humorous, I’ve learned so much from them: what it means to care for someone, what sacrifice is and how to deal with grief and loss. Through thick and thin, for better and worse (and believe me; our family has been and continues to work through worse), we need to lean on each other.
Even though our lives are constantly changing- with new degrees, new members of the family, losses of old, influential members of the family- we will always have our time spent together in person sharing stories of the past.
The time we spend together now can support us in the future.
There are conflicts, within and across individual families. We don’t always agree on things like politics, religion, relationships. Our Facebook posts aren’t always compatible.
But without time together in person, the history of our family wouldn’t continue, we wouldn’t fully understand more about who we are, where come from and where we want to go.
With so many technological advances of our time (social media, email and FaceTime) it’s easy for us to believe that connecting with each other in those ways is enough.
But what I’ve learned, and been reminded of this past weekend, is that nothing beats face-to-face interactions. Sitting around a table with a cup of coffee and listening: that’s when we really learn about each other.
So I challenge you to reach out to someone you love, a family member or a friend. Invite them to coffee, and give them the space to tell you how they’re doing. You just might learn something.