Memories

One of the things that the coronavirus distancing has done is that it has seduced me into spending more time on Facebook. I used to generally think that Facebook was a bit of a time waster. I originally signed up for Facebook because we had a nephew who was traveling in Central America and I really wanted to see his pictures. Facebook was the way to keep up with his travels. At first i didn’t do anything about having Facebook friends, preferring to have face to face friends instead. Little by little, though I got friend requests from people I know and care about. I started accepting friend requests from people I know. Then I got friend requests from members of the church and I didn’t want to turn them down. Then you get a kind of friend of friend request. I don’t accept friend requests from people that I haven’t met in some other context than Facebook at this time, but the list of friends I have on the media is impressive. I don’t belong to many Facebook groups, but I did join one group that is about my home town.

Some of the posts on our hometown Facebook page are a bit funny for me, because I haven’t lived there for nearly 50 years. There are a lot of things that have happened there since I moved away. I read some of the “remember when” posts and I don’t remember, but I can remember what happened 20 year before the post. Some of the “old timers” moved to town after I moved away. There are, of course, a number of people still living there whom I recognize and with whom I’ve shared a bit of history. I have a sister who still lives in our home town, so I keep up with the news of some of the people. She keeps up with reunions and gatherings much better than I, so she runs into old friends and gives me the news.

I don’t know if it would be any different if I had continued to live in our home town for all of my life, because memory is a very strange thing. Different people have different memories. I have a brother who is about 2 1/2 years younger than I. We grew up in the same house at nearly the same time. We had a lot of joint experiences in the first 15 years of his life before I moved out to go to college. You’d think we’d have a lot of shared memories. But he remembers different things than I do. He’ll start to tell a story, and I have no clue what he is talking about. And when we do have a shared memory, it isn’t the same for both of us. He’ll describe some event from our childhood and I won’t believe my ears. I sometimes jokingly say that either we didn’t grow up in the same house or he’s the biggest liar I ever met.

Psychologists tell us that our memories aren’t particularly accurate. Furthermore, research has shown that the stories we tell the most often are the ones that stray the farthest from the actual events. Something that we haven’t thought about for years will come to us in a form that is closer to the original event that something we’ve told about over and over for years.

I have very pleasant memories of my growing up years, of the places I have lived over the course of my lifetime, of the friends I have made, of the churches I have belonged to, and of the jobs I have held. I am often telling stories about what happened to me in other places and at other stages of my life. Having read about how memories that are often told stories, I now am wondering how accurate my memories are. I think it is highly unlikely that I had a miserable childhood, that my parents were unkind to me, that my siblings were cruel, that I suffered abuse from employers or any number of very negative possibilities for a life. I suspect that what I may not be remembering accurately are details. If I think of a specific trip I took with a youth group in a church that I served before coming to Rapid City, am I remembering which youth went on that trip, which vehicles we took, where we stopped and what the event was like? I guess I’d have to check with one of the youth or another adult chaperone to see if my memories are accurate.

Those details aren’t important, but I do have some questions about my past. I have a colleague who was a youth on a trip I chaperoned to a National Youth Event in the early 1980’s. I drove the bus for the delegation from North Dakota. I’ve wondered if that trip had any impact on her decision to become a minister. If so, I might have played a small part in her choice. I’m sure the right thing would be to talk to her about it and ask her. I wouldn’t have to tell the stories of my memories before I inquired of her about her memories. Then again, what if she doesn’t even remember that I was on the trip. I was, after all, only the bus driver - not the kind of person you need to remember to tell the stories of the trip.

And now we find ourselves in a set of circumstances where we are creating lots of memories that are independent from the memories of others. How will we remember these times in the story of our church? I am sure I will remember the graciousness and generosity of the congregation. I will remember that they continued to employ all of the church staff even when some were not able to come into work. I will remember that people continued to contribute to the church and support our ministries. That doesn’t mean that I will remember this time as an easy time or a time of community closeness. Still there has been a certain amount of solidarity despite our physical distances. I guess only time will tell what we remember.

I do hope, however, that my memories will be accurate. Because I have been privileged to work with some wonderful people. I’m not going to worry about Facebook too much. I’ll rely on the cards and letters that people have been writing. You should see them. They are wonderful.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!