Everyone has a story. Most stories are richer and more fascinating than we can ever imagine. I will never forget talking to a 90 something year old lady at church one day and discovering she had been in the Palace of the Shah of Iran and had tea with him and his family. This sweet little old lady in Georgia had taken tea with a historical figure in another country? If I remember correctly, she even gave him some godly advice while she was there!
Unfortunately, most people’s stories are lost. Either they don’t think anyone would care or they are forgotten or the memories die with the person. Sadly, many of the people who think their lives have no value would be shocked to learn how much the choices they made and the experiences they had can change how others choose to live their lives.
Your teens can help people capture their memories and quite probably learn a few important things about life and faith in the process with this unique service project. Pull your teens together and find out how they like to express themselves. Many love to take photos or make short videos. Maybe you have a few writers, poets or artists. Encourage them to work together and use the talents God has given them to help people record their stories for posterity.
Next have them choose the group from whom they want to capture memories. Perhaps it is older people who are beginning to suffer dementia. Maybe they want to capture the memories of people who have served the country in some way or are leaders in your congregation. Or they may want to capture the story of immigrants, foster children, homeless people or any of the other fascinating people whose stories are rarely told.
Encourage them to take photos, record interviews, create artwork or poems to help these people tell their stories. Encourage your students to find out how God and faith played a role in their lives or if they rejected God, how that changed the course of their lives. Encourage the teens to capture as much depth and as many life lessons as possible. You may want to help them decide on some basic starting questions and then teach them how to ask follow-up questions to get the rest of the story – often the most interesting part.
Have the students compile the results for each person in some way that the person whose story it is can keep a copy with them. We used a company to have my grandfather’s story printed in a bound book. When he was racked with dementia and would wonder, the book with his life story was one of two things he would always grab to take with him.
Invite others to see the finished products. Have the teens share what they learned and how the stories impacted them. You may find this is a great way for your students to share their faith in a non-threatening way. If you would like to do so, I would love for your teens to share their project with me when it is completed. It may just have a ripple effect on others none of us can even imagine.