Are your pictures worth a thousand words?

The expression “a picture is worth a thousand words” means if the picture tells the story, there is no need for words. While for some pictures this is true, I propose sometimes a photo warrants a thousand words. How about your family photos? Do you date them, identify the people in them, or describe the event that inspired it? How do you ensure those precious memories will endure?

As a young girl, I remember that every time I visited my grandmother’s house, I would pore over the basketful of family photos. I loved looking at those old pictures of my dad, uncles, and cousins. I learned the stories behind them from my grandma. Years ago, we retrieved a very old photo album from my husband’s family. It contained numerous old, black and white pictures of ancestors long passed. The problem; not one person was identified! It might as well have been a book of strangers. It was meaningless to us. This raises the question: How will future generations view your photos?

What are you doing with your priceless pictures? Are they residing on your phone? Have you downloaded them to your computer, or uploaded them to the cloud? If so, are they searchable? Maybe you’ve even printed them in a photobook. Great! If not, how will those irreplaceable family memories be preserved?

I intend for our grandchildren to know their ancestors and their stories, so my husband and I have committed to producing a family legacy book, complete with genealogies, photos, and family heritage stories. It’s our way of leaving a legacy of faith for the next generation. What records of your life stories and photos will you leave behind? I encourage you to make these pictures and the precious memories associated with them available to your loved ones. 

Your pictures represent stories that need telling—a written narrative that will last for generations to come. If you don’t have time to produce a photo book, consider writing a letter. I recently presented a workshop entitled, Family Snapshot Letter, with The Whole Story Source team. The idea was for people to select a photo and write a heartfelt letter to a person in the photo or to someone about the photo. It turned out to be an emotionally powerful event. Since then, I’ve committed to writing an accompanying letter with every special occasion card I send. You can create your own family tradition by writing legacy letters to your loved ones. These can be cherished now and discovered later by future generations!

Have you got mail?

This blog post was originally published to The Whole Story Source—Legacy Letters on May 30, 2019.

Do you like to receive mail? I do. Recently, I opened the mailbox to find what looked like a handwritten card. Unfortunately, the machine generated note invited me to learn more about prearranging my cremation! Most of us still get letters once a year at Christmastime—what are often referred to as brag letters. Before modern technology and social media, news and information from friends and family were often sent as a letter. Years later, these letters become precious keepsakes. Unfortunately, handwritten letters have nearly become obsolete.

These days, if I want to know what’s happening with my family, I have to go to their social media page. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s impersonal. And because I never developed the habit of regularly checking the site, I find it a bit frustrating when the rest of the world knows what’s happening with my kids before I do!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-technology. When text messaging became popular, I surprised my kids with how hip I was. My daughter exclaimed to her friends, “I got a text message from my mom.” It was either a pleasant surprise or a horrified response to an invasion of her privacy! Advancements in technology allow us to communicate at lightning speeds with people near and far.

Recently, my son said, “Mom, some girl in Ethiopia is trying to contact you via Facebook messaging, she says you’re her godmother.” My mind raced back to our time serving there. Yes, I was godmother to the daughter of some dear Ethiopian friends. That was nineteen years ago and Ebbisee would now be 17 years old. Her father died shortly after we left, and her mother managed to raise three kids in difficult economic circumstances. We had a great online reunion, but I really owe Ebbisee a tangible letter telling her how I remember her family and the qualities I admired about her father.

Letters can be read over and over again, savored when you sit down, or discovered again at a later date.

I like the convenience of sending a text without having to bother someone with a phone call. Or shooting a quick message to my kids. But rarely do I sign, Love Mom, anymore. At least I could do that with an email. Instead it’s all kissy face and heart icons. I may post a picture of a special family event on social media, but we need to realize that our heartfelt messages will end up buried at the bottom of numerous other posts, never to be retrieved again. Our heartfelt thoughts and precious memories need to be communicated in a more permanent form.

I’m suggesting it’s time to revive the lost art of letter writing. People tend to save letters. They can be read over and over, savored when you sit down with a cup of coffee, or discovered again at some later date. The next time you send a text, post, or email consider sending it in the form of a letter. Your recipient will be delighted!

Be sure to check out the letter-writing event on the News and Events page.