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A Thanksgiving to Remember

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As we begin getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday, our thoughts turn towards the many reasons we have to be thankful. We plan gatherings with family and friends and celebrations that include plenty of great food and, afterwards, probably some football.

Most of us will claim our families at the top of our list of reasons to be grateful. How well, though, do you really know the older members of your family? Be sure to recognize the older people in your life, especially if you are fortunate enough to have parents and grandparents still with you. Spending some quality time this Thanksgiving with these special folks is one way to recognize their importance in your life and to understand the legacy they want to leave you.

Take time this Thanksgiving to turn off the television and put away the cell phones and focus your attention on the older loved ones in your life. Encourage them to tell you about their lives and their experiences, and you’ll have a Thanksgiving to remember! Not only will you probably get a history lesson, but you’ll also come away with a better understanding of and a stronger bond with your loved ones.

Unfortunately, in our world today, we seem to be increasingly focused on posting “selfies” and trivial matters on social media. We’ve somehow forgotten to connect with our friends and family who are not part of that social media world. The concept of sharing feelings and experiences can also be a foreign notion to members of “The Greatest Generation” and even generations afterwards who’ve lived much more private lives. So you’ll have to encourage your friends and family members in this age group to talk about themselves and assure them that what they have to say matters to you. Once you engage them in a conversation, you may be amazed—and amused—at what you hear.

Some of the most humorous stories I’ve heard involved a skinny dipping experience (my friend had never told anyone about skinny dipping and had kept this secret for over 60 years!) and an experience of sneaking out of the house to go to a “juke joint.”

Some stories can be much more serious. I also had a friend who told me about serving in World War II and about his trip overseas. He’d never even seen the ocean, and he was taken overseas, along with about 5,000 other soldiers, aboard the Queen Mary. It was such a strange experience for him once they were at sea to look out and see nothing but the ocean and the sky; it was the beginning of a totally different world for him. In addition to the soldiers on board the ship, there were also about 3,500 crew members. Since the Queen Mary wasn’t escorted by any military ships, they maintained a zig-zag pattern while crossing the ocean to avoid being detected by enemy submarines. He arrived in Normandy 45 days after the D-Day invasion and remained in Europe until the end of the war. While at his post and enduring German shelling all around, he says he promised himself that if he got out alive, he’d spend the rest of his life in service to God, and he fulfilled that promise by being an active member in his church.

These stories and the people who told them are very special to me. They were willing to share their lives with me and give me a glimpse of how they became the people they are today. I know their families would also value these stories—if they have taken time to listen. Getting your loved ones to tell their life stories can change your life. And the experience of telling their stories will give your loved ones an opportunity to pass along their legacy. You may want to use the suggested topics below, but remember to be patient since getting them to talk may not be easy at first; try different topics until you find one that sparks their interest. Ask them to explain their answers and ask follow-up questions to keep the conversation going. You’ll be glad that you spent time learning more about the special people in your life, and you’ll definitely add the time you spent with them to your list of reasons to be grateful.

Enlightening And Thought Provoking Questions That Get Seniors Sharing:

  • What were holidays like when you were a child (Thanksgiving, Christmas, or other holidays)? Were there any special traditions that your family had?
  • Tell me about your parents and your brothers or sisters. What were they like?
  • What one success in your life pleases you most? Why?
  • Is there anything you wish you’d done, but didn’t get an opportunity to do?
  • Do you have any regrets?
  • Is there anything you’ve never shared with your family before that would surprise them about you?
  • You’ve seen a lot of changes during your life. What event or invention do you think has had the most impact on you and your life?
  • When did you start working and what type of work did you do?
  • If you could share one piece of advice with me about life, what would it be?
  • Tell me about meeting your first love. Tell me about meeting your spouse.
  • Is there a particular person who especially encouraged you or mentored you during your life? Tell me about that person.
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