May 25, 2009
Improving Your Memory
The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
Memory problems effect everyone at some point in the aging process. Diminishing powers of memory are unavoidable. There is another memory problem though that I see effecting so many people today that is completely avoidable. This memory problem is characterized by a a failure to remember and to stay connected with the people and the stories that have formed us into the people that we are today. We live in a time, and in a culture, where the achievements of the individual are celebrated, and little attention is given to the extended circle of family and friends that have made a person's success possible. The self-made woman or man is our modern day hero. Memorial Day is a perfect opportunity to reflect on this other memory problem, and to provide balance in our individual centered society.
As important as individual effort is, we are who we are in large part because of the people who have gone on before us. Memorial Day is a chance to reflect on this fact in terms of who we are as free men and women. Without the sacrifices of people in the armed forces we would not be the country we are today. On this day we extend our gratitude to all who are serving, and to all who have served, in our military, as we especially remember those who have given their lives in service to their country.
As we remember those who have served in the armed forces, I hope we also will pause to remember all who have served in some capacity in our own lives to help give us the life that we have today. Commit to taking time to remember and reconnect with extended family and listen to their stories, their living histories about how they came to be who they are, and how you came to be who you are today. If you have children or grandchildren, take time to pass on the family traditions and memories.
A great way to reconnect with people you are close to, whether it be your spouse, sibling, or close friend, is to begin sharing memories of the wonderful times you have had through the years. "Remember when we ....." is almost always followed by laughter and warm, positive memories. When a couple comes to see me for marriage counseling they are usually stuck in the midst of some conflict that has worn them down and taken much of the positive energy out of their relationship. After I have heard their description of the problem and the frustration they feel about not being able to resolve it, I will almost always take some time to shift the focus of our conversation. I will start asking them about how they first met, what attracted them to each other, and why they fell in love with each other. I will say that I understand they are not getting along well right now, but that I would like them to tell me about a time when they did work really well together and when they were able to resolve the life challenges that they faced. The very act of remembering positive, shared memories, helps the couple become unstuck from the present situation and gives them renewed hope that they can once again persevere together.
This Memorial Day, work on improving your memory, not by working a Sudoku or crossword puzzle, but by remembering the important people in your life who have given so much to help make you the person you are today.