When I was on the Board of Directors for the Prairie Star District of the UUA, one of my favorite co-directors was Rev. Nancy Haley. She was always lively, thoughtful and thought-provoking. When we got mired in budget debates and fears about funding, she would dare us to dream big: that if our services were valued, they would find funding. And she was right. She would tell me about her son, a fellow geek who worked on the crowd animation software for Lord of the Rings. Through these conversations it became clear that she had her own inner geek, which was revealed when she did a worship service in which she had everyone make a Möbius strip.
She died suddenly and all too young; though she had grandchildren, last I saw her she had energy to last for great grandchildren.
I’ve been contemplating a project, which I may be too young to do, namely to write a letter to my descendants seven generations from now. This is inspired by the Iroquois notion of considering the impact of one’s actions on the next seven generations. In order to consider them, I must think about who they are, and what better way than to write a letter? Conversely, what greater gift could I have received on my 18th birthday than a letter from a Revolutionary War era ancestor?
There are a lot of things to consider if I’m seriously going to do this. How do I get the letters to their intended recipients? What if I don’t have descendants then? If I include photos, how do I make sure they won’t fade– or worse, damage the letters? And finally, what would I say?
Delivering the letters may be the easiest problem. First, redundancy works in my favor. If each child has two children, I’ll have 128 such recipients. If a few letters get lost along the way, I can still succeed. I can give letters to my grandchildren, enclosing letters for their descendants. With each passing generation, the tradition grows more meaningful, increasing the likelihood of delivery. I can also enclose photos or mementos, different ones for each letter, so parents will look forward to seeing what their children get.
I’ll be thinking about this project for a while longer. If anyone has any suggestions or pointers, let me know. And I encourage others to consider this sort of letter writing project.