In my World Literature class, we spend some time studying biblical literature, as well as literature that predates the Judeo-Christian bible. I explain to my students that the ancient Hebrews weren’t really all that impressive. They were a wandering group of shepherds who only produced two great kings — David and Solomon. They didn’t create great urban centers along the known world’s great rivers. They didn’t develop an alphabet or contribute medical, architectural, or economic developments to humanity’s knowledge base.
There were far more complex societies such as the Akkadians, Sumerians, and Egyptians which left their mark on the ancient world. In short, the Hebrews didn’t do much of anything, except . . . they wrote their story.
As I was going through old boxes of pictures, cards, and letters yesterday, I ran across the beginning chapters of my father’s autobiography which he had mailed to me in 1999. It was mostly random memories of his early childhood and teen years, but chock full of long-past moments now fascinating to me. His homerun record in Little League. The first family vacation to Florida. Driving himself to get a haircut when he was ten (with his father’s permission to take the car).
I also have some journals of sorts that had belonged to my maternal grandfather. I say “journals of sorts” because grandpa was far too busy to spend much time in a writer’s necessary pondering. He kept pocket-sized datebooks in which he would record events. When he died, my mother gave each of us the book from the year we were born. On April 5, 1964, grandpa wrote, “Debbie born.” That’s it. Just those two words. Yet, when I read them, in his handwriting, I can imagine him pulling out his datebook after receiving the call and making a notation of the fact that I had arrived. By writing those two words, he put a pushpin into the map of time, a reference point that somehow validates that I was here.
I love blogging, but there is something precious about my personal journal. It tells my story in a much more intimate way. It explores my relationships and personal process in ways that I may not always feel comfortable making public. I love writing a secret to the universe and wondering what will happen to those secrets. Will someone read them one day? Will a niece or nephew discover them when I have passed from this earth? Will a stranger, picking through the garbage after the estate sale, pick up a plain brown-covered book I hunched over years before and find it interesting or even perhaps instructional?
Write your story. In whatever way you desire. Whether it is a two-word comment in a tiny date book or an epic narrative. I can’t promise you’ll influence the world in the way Moses has, but you just might leave your children the most precious part of you, memories you know so well but which will be a secret kept from them forever if you don’t write them down.