I love stories, simple as that.
I love reading stories, writing stories, telling stories. Teaching others to write stories. When you give people the right tools, encouragement and safe space, magic happens: people write from the heart. The stories they were longing to tell finally find a way to the page. Sometimes there are tears of joy, from the listeners and readers, and even from the tellers.
I spent a career teaching adults how to write and express their true thoughts. I taught newcomers to Canada how to tell their stories, share their wisdom and experiences with others. Mostly, I gave them the tools to connect with new friends and colleagues, and find a place within this new country.
Later, I studied social gerontology, and became aware of an entirely different group that has much to share, but, sadly, often few opportunities to do so: older adults, sometimes called seniors. I learned that some researchers are developing robots to become “companions”, and I felt horrified. A machine will never be a true companion because it cannot listen, learn or appreciate what a person has to say.
Let me share a story with you.
I was volunteering at a retirement community, leading a discussion group that consisted of about ten “senior seniors”, men and women over 80 years old. All of them were community volunteers, with much to say about local issues and politics. As I listened to their anecdotes and opinions, and looked around the common area at the other residents, it dawned on me. These people have lifetimes of stories. Stories about raising families, moving and transitioning to new homes, making money last through hard times, hosting celebrations, caring for others, learning from mistakes. What a shame that there were few outlets for those stories, few chances for other generations to learn from accumulated wisdom and experience.
Stories of a lifetime. Let’s get to work on that.
Who is a Kin Keeper?
On an academic note, it’s worth mentioning that reminiscing about the past is cognitively healthy for older adults. The brain gets some exercise through memory retrieval, not to mention the writing or telling. It’s psychologically healthy, too, since the storyteller gets to choose events that represent times of fun, happiness, health, and social power. Storytelling connects people, helping to ease feelings of isolation and loneliness. It validates a person by giving him or her an audience who can listen and learn
The Kin Keeper is the person in a family who holds the family together. She (it’s usually she, but not always) remembers the birthdays, sends the cards, hosts the dinners, makes the phone calls, supports the ones in need, encourages the family traditions and values. She has all the family photo albums and memorabilia, and seems to know who all the people are in those black and white photos.
She’s in charge of the family’s stories.
How can you benefit from this site?
Well, it could be that YOU are the kin keeper of your family. You have much to tell, and worry that one day no one will know the family’s stories, especially the ones that relay the family’s values. You worry that in this age of easy-to-delete, instant and super-brief communication, people just aren’t listening anymore.
YOU want a way to write the stories and memoirs, and to create a valuable treasure for your cherished loved ones. Our Kin Keeper Collection of beautiful, hand-made leather journals can do just that. The included writing prompts will get you started with ideas. Our online guides will support you, get you over that fear of the blank page and on your way to creating a unique heirloom. What more amazing gift can you give your family than a book that represents what you value, what needs to be remembered, and what was influential in your life
What is more amazing than your stories of a lifetime.
Kathy Bell is Director of Education at Integra College and the creator of the Kin Keepers. She holds a BA (English), a Diploma in Applied Linguistics, an MA (Curriculum), and a Certificate in Gerontology. She has over 30 years experience in university and college teaching, teacher training, and research in the fields of English as a Second Language and Adult Education. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Human Development at Fielding University, in Santa Barbara, California. Kathy has given presentations on education topics in Canada, the US, Germany and the Netherlands.