One of the great benefits of learning about and sharing a family history is the transfer of wisdom among generations.
With age comes the wisdom that can only be gained through life experiences that test us, toughen us, reward us and open doors to possibilities, often without warning. David Gould, a professor of leisure studies at the University of Iowa, used this premise to launch the Legacy Letter Project.
Gould learned something remarkable when he assigned his students to interview a senior citizen about how their lives had changed since they were of college age.
“[I] ultimately found out that my students really didn’t have any connection with someone who was ‘a senior’ in their life. When I realized that that multigenerational conversation wasn’t going on between my students and seniors, I looked for an opportunity to bring that about,” Gould said.
What resulted was the Legacy Letter Project. Starting in January 2007, Gould solicited letters of life lessons learned from older people who were willing to share them with his students. In May he randomly distributed the responses to his students with a cover letter.
“The letters I have received have come not only from all over the United States, but a few foreign countries as well,” Gould wrote. “They have arrived in the form of poems, short stories, eulogies, and more. They have shared the wisdom gained from raising a Downs Syndrome child, to surviving domestic violence or breast cancer.”
“While I hope you enjoy the letter you receive, the larger lesson is that someone cared enough to write it. Someone possibly sixty years your elder wanted to tell you a little bit about their life, and what they’ve learned.”
Writing prompt for the day: What do you know now that you wish you would have known when you were in your 20s? Please share your responses in the comments section below.