Life Notes: Treasure Chests
by David Wheeler, Ph.D.

As I enjoyed the Christmas holidays, I thought back on some of the memories of the past, especially family traditions. For instance, my family had a special dinner on Christmas Eve night because it was my parents’ anniversary. We would then open one gift after dinner. I remember the anticipation and excitement, yet difficulty waiting to open the gift.

Have you ever thought about how our pleasant memories are stored away to be pulled up in later years when we need them? They are like treasures from a treasure chest of the past. This not only applies to complete memories, but also sometimes simply to feelings. A smell or image may bring up a very pleasant feeling that we can only faintly connect to some earlier time in our lives. This is perhaps one of the best inheritances we can receive from our parents.

On the other hand, our minds also remember negative experiences from the past that may be triggered by a smell or image or tone of voice. We all have both pleasant and unpleasant memories, and sometimes it is difficult to become aware of our own triggers (reminders) and to deal effectively with them. When a child has been neglected and abused or grown up in an extremely dysfunctional family, he or she may have a reservoir of negative memories rather than positive.

In counseling, I often work at helping clients to bring up the memories that are attached to negative emotions or beliefs about themselves and to process them so that their lives are not controlled by them. However, I also appreciate other people who simply try to give the opportunity for youth to experience positive things. This adds memories on which they can draw later.

At the Methodist Children’s Home, there are many ways that this occurs. Our recreation workers strive to give youth opportunities to have good healthy fun and to experience new things. Community volunteers have provided birthday parties for youth who, at times, have never had a birthday cake before. Some families serve as visiting resources for youth who have no family of their own to visit. Many people from our community provided Christmas gifts for our youth through the Angel Tree program.

My thanks go out to all who give of themselves for this purpose. You are filling treasure chests that will produce dividends for years to come.

The Life Notes articles are written by staff of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and are published in The Ruston Daily Leader.

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