A Year to Forget, A Year to Remember
During World War II, when my parents were dating, my father heard a rumor that he and his troop were going to be transferred, secretly, to Iowa. He called my mother. “If you don’t hear from me in two weeks, go to Sioux City and wait for me there.” Two weeks later, at age eighteen, my mother traveled to Sioux City by herself, checked into a hotel, and waited. A few days later, she got a call from my father. His troop had indeed been moved there, and when he arrived and finally got a weekend pass, he went to a phone booth and looked up the hotels. Starting with the letter A, he called every hotel in Sioux City until he got to the Lincoln Hotel, where my mother was staying, faithfully waiting for his call. The story of young love was told to us, their children, over and over again. It, and other memories, were not just part of family history; they were part of family identity. As we finally see the end of this seemingly interminable period of social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine and no-hug-no-visit-no-contact days, our stories and memories of real life this past year have become all the more important to remember. When our society first began to close down to prevent the spread of the virus, many people spent their newly spare time connecting with videos, YouTubes, Tik Tok, movies, and other couch-potato activities. Our increased reliance on passive entertainment was accelerated, not created, by the pandemic shutdown. But I wonder: What stories and memories are being created by days and days of watching TV? How did the past year add to our family history and our family identity? Have we been able to preserve, or create, or strengthen our relationships with each other—and with God? Or have these months set us adrift, not worth remembering? I believe they are all worth remembering, the triumphs and hardships, gains and losses. Stories and memories are important to us as human beings. As culturally we have turned more and more to passive electronic entertainment, I hope that we do not lose the stories and our memories that form us. As God’s people, we are fashioned by the stories of God’s people as told in the Bible—that great love story between God and us. Those stories too were told over and over again, and then finally put into writing to be preserved and told for generations to come. Probably the writers never envisioned that their stories would still be heard two and three thousand years after they themselves had long been dead. An important part of telling stories and remembering memories is their role in building relationships, in healing relationships, and even in preserving relationships lost through death or distance. When we have lost a loved one, we can preserve their spirit and their presence among us by remembering stories about him or her. During a time of loss, these stories can even have the power to heal our grief. An as we continue to try to find ways to connect with one another during this pandemic, the stories can also have the power to hold us together in solidarity and mutual hope. Stories—happy and sad, funny and embarrassing, proud and even humbling (“Remember when you were slaves in Egypt…”)—offer ways for me to acknowledge who I am and what brought me to where I am now. When we remember and then tell our stories as part of looking at ourselves on our journey to God, they become holy memories and holy stories. They become part of the story of God’s people in the world, the biblical stories expanded to encompass generations and generations of people living in the larger love story between God and us. As we become more surrounded by television stories, may we never forget our own.
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