This was graduation week for my most recent legacy letter writing class. As usual, it was bittersweet – so happy to see my students leaving with the confidence and skills to complete their projects but sad to see our weekly gatherings come to an end.
These classes are reaffirming for me. As we work through the process of producing a legacy letter, I am reminded of what a powerful, cathartic experience it is to examine one’s life in order to share important pieces of that life with a loved one. The teacher learns as much as the student in the hypercharged environment of sharing the core of one’s beliefs with others.
Among the lessons learned over the last four weeks of classes:
Reflecting on the important events in one’s life can be a difficult and emotional but rewarding experience. Most of my students tell me at graduation that they didn’t anticipate how hard that reflection is.
It helps to get feedback from people outside your normal circle of friends. The interaction of students as they read sections of their project is an amazingly positive phenomenon. By the end of the class, people who were complete strangers just weeks earlier were teary-eyed as they listened to readings of their classmates.
You don’t need to be a polished writer to compose a legacy letter. It’s always better to sound authentic than it is to struggle with word choice and sentence structure. Anyone motivated enough to take on the task, has the tools to write a compelling letter.
It’s a short step from drive to hyperdrive. Students tell me that the life-study process stimulates a flood of long-forgotten stories from their memories. The class shows how to work through this potentially overwhelming situation.
It’s addictive. Several students are already looking forward to the memoir writing class I hope to teach this fall.
My mantra of “everybody’s story is interesting” was once again proven. Although my students were all directing their letters to children and grandchildren, they found that sharing their stories benefited them as much as their intended audience. What a nice bonus that is.
Flickr photo courtesy of Phil Scoville.