Part of my mission with Integral Wealth is to help people reanalyze what is valuable to them and what it truly means to be wealthy. Wealth is more than just a set of numbers on a balance sheet. I believe that one of the crucial components of personal wealth is family. Every family has traits, rituals, and stories (i.e., family treasures) that can provide meaning and richness to their children, grandchildren, and beyond.
I've written before about losing my parents. The first several years not having my mom around felt like being in a home after a storm knocked out the power. I'd see something I wanted to share with her and then remember I couldn't. Like that feeling when you walk into a dark room and hit the light switch instinctively because you keep forgetting there's no electricity.
Passing Family Treasures Down to My Children
My mom had an infinite curiosity and love for nature that she passed on to me and my siblings. I love to go for walks in nature and in parks. Whenever I walk, I always see a bird, a tree, a plant or flower that my mom would have been interested in. That feeling of wanting to share with her hurt for quite some time.
As time passed, I began using the observations I made as a way to connect the past and future. When walking with my boys, I would tell them stories about this flower or that bird as a way to connect them to their grandma outside of lifeless pictures and objects. I would then connect them further back to their great grandfather, Alvin. My mom used to tell me stories about how, even though he only went to school through 8th grade, he had a depth of knowledge about the natural world—and a desire to share it—that had a big impact on all of his children. She'd tell me how on a walk in the woods he'd never say, “Look at that bird.” He'd say, “Look at that cardinal. Look at that robin, mockingbird...sitting in that red oak, silver maple.” His curiosity for the world was passed to my mom, then me, and now my children.
It makes me wonder how many generations that went back? There's a little history of each of our families living in our lives and traditions. The little that I know gives me great joy, and I love teaching that to my children.
My family was always very practical and resourceful with their money and life decisions. I've taken that and molded it into my own style of living simply so that I can live well.
I do my best now to teach my children those lessons by example. Like my grandfather, I build things when I can. I'm good with plants and teach my boys what I can about that. I am strategic and thoughtful with our financial planning and teach them lessons and explain my thinking as situations arise to give them wisdom to draw from as they grow up.
For myself and now with some clients, I have begun a process of developing a Family Mission Statement as well as a Philanthropic Mission Statement. The idea is to build a set of written values and goals we can work on as a family. I hope it will help facilitate more conversations around the past and future and may be something future generations can use.
What Are Your Family Treasures?
What are your family stories, habits, and rituals? Share your biography with your family. Write down your stories. Stories that were told to you by your parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and maybe even great grandparents. Why did you take that job? Start that business? Move here or there?
One day, in the hospital, at the end of my grandfather's life, he told me this story about a ride to a funeral:
“It was a dark and rainy ole day and we was headin’ to a funeral. I can remember sitting on the step of the buggy as its big wheels trudged through the mud. The thing I remember most is that on the way, that ole horse kept swithin' its tail and the tips of its tail would nip me in the face and that smarted."
For some reason I went home and wrote it down exactly as he told it nearly 30 years ago. I forgot about it until I stumbled across an old journal, and it made me so happy. Reading that story took me back to my grandfather's side. The words took me back to 1912 when my grandfather was 4 years old. A story of a little boy sitting on the edge of a horse drawn wagon that could have been from 1812, 1712…. My grandfather didn't have much material wealth, but I will forever treasure the things he taught me and the curiosity for the world he passed down to me through my mom.
Your stories, your values, your memories are a piece of you that you’ve inherited from years past. Helping your family have a deeper, richer understanding of that piece of yourself can help them learn and grow in ways that neither you nor they can see at this moment. Your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles all have stories you could learn from. Treasure that. Write them down. Pass them on to your children, nieces, and nephews.
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The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.