According to legend, Indian tribes in North America preserved their heritage by telling campfire stories, illustrating them with symbolic items stored in sacred bundles.
A sacred bundle contained significant artifacts from the tribe’s past, and tribal elders were responsible for sharing the stories associated with each item. Contents likely included a feather, arrow fragments, a pipe or other such relics symbolizing the tribe’s history.
Today, every organization, every family and every individual would benefit from having a sacred bundle. Each has a heritage, a culture and a history worth sharing and preserving. Below are three examples of sacred bundles within my life.
I work for the American Red Cross, an organization replete with stories depicting our rich, 130-year history.
Stories are shared about our founder, Clara Barton. We also hear stories about how individuals such as Walt Disney and Ernest Hemingway once worked for the organization. Tales of their involvement have been passed down from generation to generation.
In recent years, major disaster relief efforts have provided ample opportunities for our “tribal elders” to share stories that help relative newcomers like me to better understand our history, our culture and our tradition of helping people.
In the office building where I work, many of our walls are decorated with authentic Red Cross posters from the World War II era. Just off the main lobby you can visit our archives room where valuable artifacts from our past are displayed. There, in our “sacred bundle,” we display old uniforms, lapel pins and brittle newspaper clippings. We even have an old, wooden bureau trunk that once belonged to Gen. William Sears, Clara Barton’s field agent and private secretary. These historical items help to provide ballast for the collective memory that shapes the heritage of our organization.
In our family we have several sacred bundles. On a bookshelf in our family room we display a few items that belonged to my late mother. In our hallways we proudly display family portraits and wedding photos.
My wife collects figurines. Although she has a sizable collection, she does not strive for quantity. Rather, each figurine represents an important person or event in our family’s history. Carol can make our heritage come to life as she recounts the memorable events surrounding each figurine in her display cabinet.
In an obscure corner of our basement, I store my sacred bundle. Inside are artifacts important to me, items that remind me of various points along the pathway of life’s journey.
A couple of times at special family events, I have passed around the items in my sacred bundle. As my children handled each relic, I regaled the entire family with the stories about events that have made our family a family.
Among the items in my sacred bundle are:
- A silver dollar that was in my pocket the night I asked a beautiful young woman to spend the rest of her life with me. To this day, that coin reminds me of the importance of marriage and the commitment I made so many years ago.
- A master office key from a former employer. That key reminds me of the fleeting status and authority I once held as a prince in a distant and ephemeral corporate kingdom. Though important at the time, the perks of that job now seem trivial as I look at my career in the bigger picture. Yet the key reminds me of where I came from in the journey that has brought me to where I am today.
- A pocket knife given to me by my grandfather on my 13th birthday. The knife was not new at the time. My grandfather himself had carried the tool in his own pocket. To me, it represents those things—mostly intangible things—that have been passed down from generation to generation.
- Other miscellaneous items in my sacred bundle include a bookmark, a small rock and a fountain pen. Each carries special memories. Someday I will include other symbolic items such as the LiveStrong wristband which, for the past seven years, has never left my wrist and constantly reminds me of the importance of good health.
The beginning of a new year prompts us to look forward, anticipating whatever God has in store for us during the coming months.
The end of the year also provides an opportunity to reflect on our journey so far. In these chaotic, turbulent times, we can find purpose and meaning as we share the memories preserved in a sacred bundle.
You have memories and stories that need to be told. What’s in your sacred bundle?