My friend Fred has the funniest ritual. When asked to bring dessert to a dinner party (or any party), he heads to Carvel to pick up an ice cream cake. That on its own is revelatory for me because, well, show me someone who doesn’t appreciate a chocolate-vanilla-crunchies-in-the-middle Carvel cake and I will show you an unhappy person. But the best part about his ritual is what he gets piped across the top. Instead of requesting “Happy Birthday” or “Congratulations,” or “Thank you,” Fred ups the ante with messages like the one above, “Thanks for the Spaghetti,” so prosaic that it’s funny. Or “To the Best Freakin Deacon,” when his niece became a Deacon at her church, not something people probably celebrate everyday. On his nephew’s 21st birthday cake, he asked a blanching Carvel employee to write a decidedly non-G-rated version of “Time to Mess Things Up.”
I’m telling you this story because I hope it makes you laugh, but also because it’s part of a little passion project that my friend Jodi (of Supermakeit fame) and I are working on, tentatively called “Treasury.” We are in the process of collecting easy actionable ideas and rituals that might help us all live more — sorry for this word — intentionally. We hope they are ideas that help people connect…to their children, to their parents, to their grandparents, to their histories, to their communities, to something spiritual and mysterious that make us feel something a little deeper than what we feel when we are scrolling through our twitter feeds. We are looking for rituals like Fred’s that might briefly brighten someone’s day, or rituals that might crush a small part of your heart, or quite simply, rituals that just make you feel something. For her father’s 70th birthday, our friend Brooke had 70 of his friends and family members from all over send in postcards with a message; My friend Ingrid escorts her 100-year-old grandfather to Story Corps on big birthdays to record his memories. (“It brings him joy knowing we are getting so much joy from his life story.”) Remember NJ mom Diane who tapes a “Welcome Summer” banner across the doorway for her kids to run through on the last day of school? Those are the simple, thoughtful, easily imitated kinds of rituals we want to find, and we were hoping you had some of your own to share.
We know it’s hard to come up with these things on the spot so we’ve taken the liberty of writing a few prompts that might trigger something brilliant. Please don’t be shy and please don’t be afraid to tell us a story, however long it is.
-What friendships mean the most to you and how do you nurture them?
-When was the last time you helped someone get through tough times and what did you do for them?
-When do you feel closest to a loved one who you have lost?
-What was the nicest thing someone gave you or made for you for a birthday present?
-What was the nicest thing you did for someone on a birthday or special occasion?
-How do you celebrate milestones large and small?
-Has your family invented any holidays? How do you celebrate them?
-What was the last personal item you sent or received through snail mail? Who was it to and what was it?
–Do you have any traditions with your pet?
-Do you photograph/document anything specific about your kids or life in general?
-What have your grandparents passed on to you (recipes/heirlooms/rituals) that you cherish?
-What recipe/talent/skill did you inherit (or wish you inherited) from a grandparent?
-If you are from a divorced family, were there/are there rituals (meals/activities/holiday traditions) that are therapeutic to you?
-When was the last time you changed someone’s mind?
-Tell us a story about forgiveness.
Once you know your Treasury submission (or submissions!) tell us about it by filling out this form. We will share more details about the project with you as we know them. Not to sound like your third grade teacher, but THERE ARE NO WRONG ANSWERS HERE. Thank you readers! Jodi and I appreciate it so much. UPDATE: We are blown away by the response to this. Keep them coming (no matter when you are reading this post) and apologies in advance if we don’t get back to you right away. Please know that we are loving and appreciating every single story.