Because Mom’s mantra was, “Get along with your brothers and sisters,” the eight children of Alice and L.J. Whalen (hardly children today) do their best to comply with her deepest wishes. With that thought in mind, I’d like to tell you about two traditions you might want to adapt to your own family—or friends who are like family.
IDEA #1 Our sister Ruth has been a flight attendant for American Airlines for 34 years. A few years ago, Len (the brother who is only a few months younger than me, but much wiser) decided that whenever he flies, he’ll give a candy bar to each of the flight attendants in honor of Ruth. We all know a good idea when we see one, so the rest of the sibs followed his example, and in the past few years, some of us give Starbucks gift cards instead. (And Ralph gives the most—despite his reputation for being cheap!)
In response, the flight attendants have always been appreciative, yet in the current climate of rage, I can only imagine that as passengers board, the flight attendants wonder if they’ll need to defend themselves against someone who is angry. As a result, when I’ve given this unexpected gift this year, their eyes fill with a look that says, Thank you for understanding me!
So if you want to make someone’s day, this is one easy way to bring kindness into the world.
IDEA #2 The second idea might be considered a blessing of the Covid isolation. Beginning in the spring of 2020, our family wanted to stay connected, so we scheduled a Whalen sibs and spouses conference phone call each week. The 12 who participate on the call selected Sunday 8pm Eastern as the meeting time—which works out well for all four time zones we need to accommodate. As you might imagine, we went through a process of decisions: Should this be a free-for-all chat or should we create a structure? Would we talk by Zoom or keep it a phone call; with 12 fairly strong personalities, who will be in charge?
After a few weeks, we settled into a rotation system for leading. The weekly leader was in charge of:
1) selecting a question for each person to answer
2) deciding the order of speakers
3) acting as the group leader by calling on each person to share family updates and give their answer to the question
4) keeping the meeting to about an hour or so.
The benefits of this call have kept us going for 85 weeks. We not only get to hear updates on each of the eight families (we’re talking about 80 people in all!), we also have grown to understand and appreciate each other in new ways. As you might have guessed, everyone has a story to tell from their perspective. And as the song says, “To know you is to love you,” or at least understand how and why we all got to be so unique.
Because we all come from different worlds, the questions have great variety. Each week is fresh based on the leadership style and scope of questions of the leader: What’s one thing you learned from your grandparents? What do you plant? If you had an extra $150,000, how would you spend it? We’ve even played Bingo! Questions arrive via email around Wednesday so we have time to think of our answers.
Friends have started to ask about the weekly question, which gives them a chance to weigh in on what they’d say. So the discussions affect many more people, and we love sharing the joy! It’s great fun!
NOTE: If you’d like to join the fun, I have a list of “25 Questions To Get Your Stories Started” to jump-start your own group on my website: https://www.whalenvoices.com.
IDEA: Ask some of these questions around your THANKSGIVING table!
May your THANKSGIVING be filled with appreciation and joy,