December 25, 2014
As we celebrate the gifts of life this holiday season, it seems appropriate to consider the abiding gifts and values by which we live and those we pass on to our loved ones. One profound gift is the story of our own ancestors. In The Spoon from Minkowitz, travel journalist Judith Fein guides us on “a bittersweet roots journey to ancestral lands.” Armed with a just six clues, Fein discovers not only her grandmother’s story but the transformative power of this pursuit.
“Most people focus on leaving money to their children and grandchildren, but almost no one thinks about leaving a legacy that gives roots and grounding to the knowledge of where we came from and why, to a large degree, we are who we are,” explains the author.
Fein, who also occasionally offers tours, has become an expert on ancestral travel and what she callsEmotional Genealogy. This can take the form of traveling to the land your ancestors came from. “The more you know about their place of origin, the more potent the trip will be. But even if you know no details, it is powerful to walk the land they walked, breathe in the air, go to the markets, taste the food, talk to people. I think it is the best antidote to the pervasive malaise of rootlessness and disconnectedness that afflicts us. This kind of ancestral travel has great intergenerational appeal,” says Fein.
Another way is to gather stories from the oldest members of your family, specifically the details, and noting the behavioral patterns that have been passed down, both the positive and negative traits. “When you look at the behavioral legacy, you have the option of transforming it rather than transmitting it,” she says.
She sees these explorations of our roots as an immeasurable form of wealth. “If you can pass on family stories and history, transparency about what came before, objects, writing, and photos from ancestors, you can show the younger generations that family knowledge is as important as family funds.
“It can be the beginning of a sea change in the way people see themselves in relation to those who came before them and those who will follow them. One day we will be the ancestors. Who will remember us and why? Hopefully, it will be for the values we impart as well as the wealth we have accumulated. If we forget our forebears, then we, too, will be forgotten.
Fein believes that teaching children where they come from is as important as a financial inheritance because it gives them legacy and roots…”something we need a lot more of in our lives.” To learn more about the inspiring power of ancestral travel, orderThe Spoon from Minkowitz at Amazon.
Happy holidays from all of us at The Merriman Financial Education Foundation!