Home Concepts Adult Development Essay XXI:  Generativity Three: Consecrating, Gathering, Preserving Values, Story-Telling

Essay XXI:  Generativity Three: Consecrating, Gathering, Preserving Values, Story-Telling

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Generativity Three can be expressed in yet another manner. We bring people together on a regular basis who have shared a profound experience in their life. The most obvious and frequently occurring form is the family reunion and high school and college alumni reunions. We gather together with our families once or several times a year to celebrate birthdays. These reunions often involve abundant food, story-telling, photo-sharing, and even honoring those who have passed away. Similarly, alumni reunions involve a substantial amount of story-telling on such topics as past life, life histories since graduating and parting company. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of reunion events is the motivations of the women and men who are responsible for organizing them. In the case of alumni reunions, there are often paid staff members to handle the logistics; yet, even these events require extensive volunteer efforts. Of course, family reunions are rarely handled by a paid staff. Reunions, like honoring and other form of Generativity Three, are based on social exchange, not market exchange.

Why do people put in the effort to make these gatherings take place? Is it their own need for companionship? Are these folks still living in the past and have never “grown up” or “left college”? In some instances, these are probably valid assumptions about why some people volunteer for this work. Yet, there seems to be more to it than being frozen in time, which is a kind of stagnation. Several of the motives we mentioned in previous essays seem relevant. Reunions are first and foremost about tangibility. We don’t just “phone in” our reunion. We show up and participate. We meet other people in person. We share a meal. We gather together to listen to speeches, stories, or music. We might even join together in singing old fight songs or the favorite family tune.  These are immediate, tangible engagements that often seem to be missing in our contemporary, digital world.

We might also be motivated by the desire to safeguard an old tradition. Family values are reinforced through the retelling of an old family story, such as the migration of our great grandparents from some foreign land. Alumni reunions often enable and encourage us to remember the values we embraced as young men and women. We are not just graduates of a specific college or university, nor are we just members of a specific family. We are guardians of the values associated with this educational institution and family. In many of the old European communities, each family had its own shield which displayed symbols or words declaring its values and aspirations. The shields were often hung in the church that families attended every Sunday. Family members would sit in a pew that was located near the shield. Thus, the Sunday service wasn’t just about the values being preached from the pulpit. It was also a reassertion of the unique values associated with the family’s history and heritage. Family reunions of the 21st Century may serve a similar function.

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