Last Sunday morning, I had a combined Sunday school class of junior high and high school students. We had an opening prayer, and then I immediately hit them with a question."How many of you can name your grandparents?" Hands went up all around. "How many of you know the names of your great-grandparents?" Though tentatively, most of the kids again raised their hands. "How many of you can name your family back for 18 generations?"The kids quickly stuck their hands under their thighs and began frantically looking out the windows.The reason for my questions became clear soon enough as I went through our first reading, Genesis 5, and even more so with the second reading, Matthew 1. As we went through the generational recounting and begat followed begat, the kids were actually laughing.Explaining that Noah, Methusalah and Cainaan lived over 800 years amused them. Noting that they fathered children when they were in their second century of life amazed them.My Sunday school lessons are constructed to help my kids enjoy reading the Bible, and also to encourage them to find ways they can relate to the people in those stories from our ancient past. On this particular day, it worked very well.With several students who have family roots in the Jordan, Brandenberger, Geistweidt and Vater families, they understood all too well what it means to know your ancestors. But, when I explained that children in the Jewish faith not only knew their ancestral heritage; but, were required to learn and recite the entirety of their lines, orally, in front of the entire family,,, amazement changed to sheer horror.Many of the kids had perused family history books, and knew that some of their relatives actually did know the full family history. To a small degree, most of the kids knew that they were related to various other families in Mason County.Once we finished the Bible readings, the kids and I started discussing why knowing your family roots was so important to the Jews and their worship. We then talked about why knowing where you came from is so important to knowing where you're heading and what your possibilities might be.In Mason County, many of our families have been in the area for over 100 years. Because of that longtime residency, many of those families have intermarried, turning simple family trees into rather convoluted vines. It also means that your neighbors aren't just strangers and people who live next door. They are your cousins, your brethren, your family.The Bible recounted generation after generation so that the children would understand the descent from Abraham, the relationship to one of the other tribes of Israel, and the adherence to their faith through centuries of toil and hardship. In modern times, we relate our lineage so that we understand the sacrifices our families made by settling this new land. We learn how they settled disputes by marrying into competing families, or they retained property by marrying as closely into the family as possible.This week, our annual Spring Visitors' Guide is in the paper. We can tell you about the land, the rivers, the flowers and the businesses; but, it's almost impossible to explain the people of Mason without first understanding the long family tendrils that weave through all the residents.Use our Visitors' Guide to learn more about the places and things in Mason County. But, to learn about the people, sit down and start talking to them. They all have family stories and anecdotes, and learning some of them will bring you even closer to an understanding of the other things that make Mason County so special.See you next Sunday, kids!
It’s all just my opinion.