Sharing their lives two pages at a time

Courtesy photo Harvey County residents write their life stories during a workshop.

The Active Age

HESSTON — For many people, sitting down to write their memoirs might seem like a daunting task. But a program that assigns participants to write their life stories in two-page increments made believers out of a half-dozen Harvey County residents.

The “Life Stories” workshops were led over the course of six weeks by Jill Schmidt Weaver, chaplain at the Schowalter Villa Independent Living community. Weaver said she heard about the program a couple years ago and decided to become certified as an instructor.

“There’s a lot of value for anyone at any age to stop and reflect on their life experiences and how they’ve been impacted emotionally, spiritually, socially,” she said. “That reflection is one of the benefits of this class. Sometimes there are painful memories that a person can connect with, and as you revisit them, some healing happens because you’re at a different stage of life; you have a different understanding.”

One participant, Larry Rowe, said the workshops provided the “structure and accountability” helpful in getting thoughts onto paper.

“My favorite topic to write about was ‘major branching points’ as I looked back over my life to see how God has worked through the good and difficult times. I could see how, according to Romans 8:28, He has worked all things for the good.”

Another writer, Judie Willems, said one interesting exercise was considering “if we were a fabric, what kind of fabric would we be. 

“For myself, I chose gauze. It seems like a strange choice, but it’s movable, filtering, transparent, absorbent — things that I have always tried to be as I’ve moved through life as well.”

Participants might have felt vulnerable as they started sharing their stories, but Rowe and Willems agreed that it ended up being a strong bonding experience. Rowe even created some Christmas gifts out of the experience — “three-ring notebooks with my stories as Christmas gifts for our five children.”

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