There are certain words that most of us view as positive. Family and legacy are two of them, however, they can both be negative. There are negative legacies and bad families, but closer to the matter is not sinister intent, but a lack of meaning, purpose and care. Every human wants a good legacy, to be part of a good family, but sometimes mistakes are made, learning ceases and wisdom is lost. The original design for families includes thriving individuals united around a shared identity across multiple generations. That’s family legacy in the benevolent sense.
Family legacy is powerfully shaped by the culture it is immersed in, by the intentionality of patriarchs and matriarchs passing on traditions and customs that help the family members feel connected; that the world is safe and meaningful enough to live in because of it. Family elders, even if they don’t recognize it, have influence that lasts for generations. It begins with caregiving, (usually the first arrival of a newborn), continues with each custom passed on (times of grief, times of celebration), lessons learned (sometimes together, sometimes recalling earlier stories) and finally modeling how to finish well.
Practically writing, Bill High on his ‘Legacy for Families’ website says: “The family must know who they are, what they stand for, what they value. And then they need to align what they do – how they spend their time and money – with their values.”
For Mennonites, another great way to sustain a legacy is to include the Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) in your will, to be a member and bring your family with you and/or donate to our Manitoba Heritage Trust endowment. From now until March 31st, the Manitoba government will match your contribution 2:1. It’s a great way to ensure that the Mennonite family legacy will continue on for the next generations. You can donate on the MHV website or call MHV if you would like more information.
For all the families and kids in our community, MHV is hoping to open the gates for its annual Winter Carnival. It will be a simpler event with no indoor activity, but there will be new hiking paths! For the first time, MHV will have dedicated trails that the whole family can walk through. At MHV there are woods and a pond, lanes that pass by 100+ year old heritage buildings and of course a Dutch windmill that continually adjusts itself to face into the prevailing wind.
Here’s a reflection on a past Winter Carnival: “What a beautiful sunny day for our Winter Carnival! I saw fathers making getaway caves in the snowbanks for their kids, mothers snuggling their toddlers on the horse wagon, children playing keep-away hockey on the rink and everyone roasting marshmallows by our bonfire. Our main street provided an opportunity for good old outdoor play. This kind of interaction with caregivers and nature is exactly what our kids need in our new digital world.”