Need a New Years Resolution? Here's one you might need to do for 2023

by Jordan Green

If you’ve not yet set a New Year’s resolution, here’s one for you to consider: Learn more about your friends and family.

My family and I are entering the New Year with one less loved one. My Great Aunt Marilyn passed from this life to the next Dec. 21, just days before Christmas.

We’re sad, but we know she’s at peace in heaven. We’ve been planning memorial arrangements and gathering photos that reflect who she was to us. Fortunately, we’ve got something that summarizes her life’s story well: a nearly 30-minute video we filmed last year of her talking about her life. She spoke passionately about the loving marriage she and my Great Uncle Stan had for almost 50 years, her tenure working at the Nazarene Publishing House and her childhood battle with polio –a remarkable testimony of overcoming.

On top of that, we’ve got several videos of her and her sisters singing their favorite Gospel songs. We filmed those videos in September, not long before Aunt Marilyn’s health began a rapid decline. When we took those videos, we had no idea how much longer Aunt Marilyn would – or wouldn’t – be with us. It’s by the grace of God that we were motivated to record her. Now, we’re reaping the reward of the seeds we sowed. By taking just a little bit of time to learn about our family history, we’ll have those memories and stories with us forever.

That’s the New Year’s resolution I’d encourage you to make. No matter your age or family role, you have a story to tell, and you have others’ stories to document, too. The same applies for your friends. Preserving your loved ones’ life stories takes little more than a phone, camera or audio recorder.

If you’ve got any of those devices, the job is as simple as sitting down with your loved ones, turning the camera on, starting a conversation and asking a few questions. You won’t regret it. If you feel like you don’t know where to begin, ask yourself: Do I know enough about my loved one to write his or her obituary?

If not, read some obituaries and look at the outline. Generally, they read like a chronological mini-biography of the person’s life. As a newsman, I love asking questions, so here are some I’d ask your loved one if I were interviewing him or her for a story: When and where were you born? Where did you live as a child? What was your upbringing like? What did you like to do most? Where did you go to school, and when did you graduate? Where have you worked, and what have you enjoyed about your career? What are some of the most important life lessons you’ve learned?

And what would you want people to know the most about your life? Those are just a handful, and I’d encourage you to probe deeper. You know your loved one better than anyone, so talk about some of the times you’ve shared together – or even the times you wish you’d shared together. As for y’all who live far away from your loved ones, don’t think you’re without the same opportunities. Make a phone call, put the phone on speaker mode and place an audio recorder next to the phone. Phone call recording apps are good options, too. Or, if you and your special someone are high-tech, use a feature like Zoom that’s handy for recording.

I’d encourage you to use both video and audio when you record, if possible. But if audio alone is all you can get, that’s still good. Once you’ve recorded that information, store it in more than one place digitally. Platforms like Dropbox and YouTube allow for longterm storage and easy sharing, and you can customize whom you’ll share the content with. External harddrives and CDs are reliable as well. Most of these options are pretty inexpensive, if not free. While this is good for children to do with their parents and grandparents, you don’t have to be looking up to someone in terms of family hierarchy to do this.

It could even be a fun activity for parents to do with their kiddos or friends. Wouldn’t it send a great message to your friends to spend the time learning about how they go to where they are today? This activity isn’t just easy to do – it’s measurable, too, making it the perfect New Year’s resolution. Commit to interviewing one relative or friend each month for 30 minutes.

By year’s end, that’s 12 loved ones and six hours of meaningful storytelling and bonding time. Best of all, it’s an investment that costs nothing and yields dividends forever. When your loved ones are gone, you’ll be able to answer the important questions. You’ll be able to hear their voices, see their faces and relive those precious memories all over again. This New Year, you can make a resolution that makes a positive, lifelong difference. Happy New Year, y’all!