What have you inherited from your ancestors?
When I look at the life I am leading today, I see the reverence for those who came before me as a very visible thread going back through the lineage. I see pride there as well. (In some of us, it was pride to the point of foolishness but it was still there.) I have inherited a level of relentlessness that some have declared intimidating. I suppose that comes with the warrior stock in my lineage. My love of knowledge and thirst for wisdom is very much a product of the educators that I am descendant from. I suspect it goes back farther then that, though it gets difficult to trace it back.
Aside from these personality traits, I can point at the actions of respect for my ancestors as part of my inheritance. While a shrine was not formally kept, pictures of all members of the family that we had access to were in my grandparents house and all of the children knew who they were. The hoarding of books and the celebration of the wisdom therein is a comparatively recent phenomena in my lineage (from about when books became easier to acquire in history).
The willingness and action to stand up for what we deem as right and just has been present for as far back as we can trace it. This manifests in different ways for each generation. In the Revolutionary War era, my ancestor Joseph Knight fought in the war for the revolution because he believed in the cause and that it was the correct thing to do. I have people who fought on both sides of the Civil War (US) that sincerely believed they were standing up for what was right. And then there is my great-grandfather’s generation, who so vehemently opposed the actions of the Weimar Republic and the budding trends of antisemitic policy that he left his nation of birth to emigrate to the United States (coming from a family that started off financially relatively comfortable). He left towards the beginning of the Weimar Republic. I am sure that I have people who fought on either side of World War I. In my grandfather’s generation, I am related to a hero who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, amongst others less well known. My brother continued this warrior heritage and served in the USMC for a period of time.
The more peaceable elements of my heritage lends themselves towards actions to care for the community I am in (because a great deal of charity and social activism is present) and actions to care for the environment (because I come from farmers who know how vitally important the health of the environment is). I also have ancestors who were people of deep faith. My paternal grandfather’s grandfather was a renowned minister in the hinterlands of Michigan. The theme of building a rich spiritual life and keeping one’s faith in their actions is perhaps as frequent in my ancestors as heroism, if not more so.
All of these things are traits and behaviors that I treasure. Partly because it forms a vital part of who I am and partly because they are the best of what my ancestors have handed down to me and what I keep in sacred trust for my children. It is my hope that this continues forward but if it happens that the line ends with my sons’ generation, I sincerely believe it will end well because of the values that we have cherished and the deeds that we will have done.