The season of generosity and the gift of story

A grandmother, along with her daughter and her granddaughter, looking at photos in the living room.

Using stories as a tool of generosity to connect meaning with those we love.

For many of us, the holidays create opportunities to gather with loved ones to share stories of past experience and create new memories. These seasons are laced with rituals that remind us of the importance of our human connection and how our lives are intertwined with those we hold dear.

This time of year can also bring loneliness as we remember those whose place is solely in our hearts and the stories that bring them to life again in moments of reflection. It is fitting to pause and reflect on how stories from the past and present are the currency of life we share with others.

Sometimes, we wish we had more stories. As an example, here is the story of Terence. His father died when he was only four years old, and so he has few memories of his father. As he grew, he confided in his mother his sense of loss not only from not knowing his father but also from not having a storehouse of memories that he could draw upon for understanding the gift of his father’s legacy.

His mother took this to heart and gathered the extended family to capture stories of his father. These stories were a gift of generosity from others to Terence and connected him more deeply to his family and also to his father, for whom he now has memories to share and treasure. Sometimes, as on this occasion, the story is the gift, a one-time act of generosity by others that has lasting impact.

We have learned that the greatest gifts are often not monetary in nature but rather a life well-lived and expressed in the values we share with our children. Another example is the story of Grandma Mimi. Her wealth was not measured in riches but in the depth of her generosity and warmth. She lived with an open heart, always eager to hear the life stories of others. She cradled those stories with care, using them to foster deep human connections far beyond immediate family and friends.

Stories can evoke a wide array of feelings: love, devotion, and even discomfort or regret. With this season of gratitude upon us, here are some ideas for using story as a tool of generosity to connect meaning with those we love.

  • Set aside a time to share stories of how loved ones present and past have impacted the lives of family. Give others time beforehand to consider what they might share.
  • Invite individuals of all ages and intellectual capacity to share an important or impactful experience. Children can capture this in various forms, such as a card, piece of art, story, or dance.
  • Share a story in your holiday cards of what that family relationship or friendship means to you and your family.
  • Send a card to a colleague or client showing them appreciation not only for their business but also for something that you have learned or experienced together.
  • Write a legacy letter to be shared with your loved ones telling your story and expressing your wishes, hopes, and intentions for them.

A story that expresses appreciation for the gift of friendship or family is an act of generosity that will not soon be forgotten and may be just what another person needs during this season of the year. These stories can connect us on a deeper level and, in turn, can begin to create the future we want for ourselves and others.