Life Prompt; Memoir Writing Prompt

by Matilda Butler on April 28, 2015

catnav-interviews-active-3Post #211 – Memoir Writing – Matilda Butler

Think About Your Life This Way; Write About Your Life This Way

Hawaiian Life Prompt and Memoir Writing Prompt

“What’s a life prompt?” you may ask. Although most of my blog posts focus directly on memoir, I occasionally write about a broader topic, one that lets you focus on your life rather than just writing about your life. I hope you feel, as I do, that reflecting on your life can help you have a better, a more positive, future.

I got the idea for today’s post recently when I was walking in one of the Hawaiian historical parks on the Big Island. I slowly made my way from sign to sign, reading about the history of the lava flows in this area as well as the customs of Hawaiians. The sign above grabbed my attention.

Recognize others,
be recognized,
help others,
be helped;
such is a family relationship.

If you match the Hawaiian words and the English translation, you notice that “ohana” means family. But it has a much broader meaning. While ohana is parents and children, it includes an entire community encompassing more distant relatives, friends, neighbors. Ohana is a concept that is well–and widely–used on the Islands and has at its core the sense of relationships.

Today, as your go about your tasks, I hope you’ll keep the words in your mind.

Recognize others,
be recognized,
help others,
be helped;
such is a family relationship.

Tunnel vision often keeps us from recognizing others–the stranger on the street, the couple you walk past in the grocery store aisle, the clerk at the bank (yes, I still go inside a bank occasionally) or the post office. We need to look at others and really see them. It can make a difference in someone’s day when you thank them for their service or even acknowledge them with a smile and a nod or a “Good morning.”

Similarly, we are so busy that we feel we don’t have the time to help others. And that’s probably true. We are all busy. And yet something as simple as opening a door for a mother with two toddlers or lifting a heavy grocery sack for someone who is struggling to get it into the car can bring a bit of light to everyone concerned.

By recognizing others and helping others, we expand our sense of connectedness, or in the Hawaiian concept, of ohana.

Writing Prompt:

Prompt #1. Write a paragraph about your perspective on family. When you were growing up, were there honorary aunts or uncles? Were there close family friends who were treated like relatives? Or perhaps you grew up in a small family. You might have been the only child and your parents may not have had friends they saw frequently. How do you think your unique experiences influenced the way you thought about family when you were young? How do you think your experiences influenced your adult years and the sense of family you gave your children?

Prompt #2. During the next 24 hours, see how often you can recognize others and help others. Then write a list about your experiences. Did the small and simple acts help take you outside your own world? Did you feel more connected, even if only during the moment?

Prompt #3. Reflect on your family relationships. Who do you include in your extended network of relationships. Does the group stay fixed or do you deliberately expand it over time? My mother had a great perspective on this. She lived to the age of 95 and yet always had a large group of friends that she stayed in touch with. She said to me on more than one occasion, “You need to keep meeting new people and getting to know them. As you age, some of your friends and family will die so you need to actively expand your relationships with others. Otherwise, you’ll end up alone.” When she died, the chapel was filled.

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