Proper Perspective in Tough Times

I was at a Board of Directors meeting last night for a very active, productive and wonderful organization, The Zachary Scott Theater (http://www.zachtheatre.org). As a responsible Board, we are mindful of economic changes as they relate to our task at hand. Some of the thoughts brought up last night reflected some of the members’ concern of what tough economic times are in our near and distant future. I even heard some predictions of “doom and gloom” that the media has recently been flooding the airwaves and print with.

I was instantly reminded of one of the most beneficial things I learn from the LifeStory interviews I conduct … perspective. Whether it’s the Holocaust survivors describing their experiences in Nazi occupied Europe or the 90-plus year olds describing what the Great Depression of the 1930s was really like, I gain a true perspective of what’s going on in the US today. If you came from another planet and merely read the newspaper (or listened to prime time news on television), you would think that the second Great Depression had begun.

I suggest that anyone should merely open their eyes and describe what they see tomorrow on the downtown streets of your community. Do you see bread lines of hungry people waiting for a meal? Do you see your bank locked up and out of business? Do you see signs on the recently closed businesses that say “Juden” (“Jews” – indicating a closed business because it is now unlawful to own a business because the owner is of a certain religion, race or nationality) spray-painted on the building? Absolutely not!

What you see are people working and moving about like there is little difference from a few months or years ago. Yes, they might have less money in their pockets. They might even have a portfolio of investments that is worth a fraction of its value of a few months ago. But what you don’t see is what happened in the 1930’s. The lesson learned is that while we should be aware of the economic reality that we face, we should keep in perspective what it could be … a lot worse! Which also means it is a lot better than what we hear and read through the mainstream media.

If we proceed with a view of the glass half full, rather than half empty, our glasses will fill up before we know it. Then we will all look back at these times and wonder what the perceived panic was all about. If you have any doubt, just visit with a 90-plus year old and ask them to describe what it was really like in the 1930s. 

The current President of the Zachary Scott Theater Board did a great job of adding perspective to our situation. We are currently achieving our goals, serving the community well and are responsibly moving ahead with positive attitudes. Proper perspective is a great thing. Let’s use it and keep smiling as we do.

Sharing Stories – A Simple “How-To” Approach

A few weeks ago I was invited to sit in on a group of guys who meet at a local coffee shop every Saturday morning around 10:00 AM. I did not know of anyone in the group except the gentleman who invited me. I was hesitant to accept the invitation, not only because I didn’t know anyone else, but it was a group I didn’t have much in common with – mature (or older)  lawyers, judges & State politicians! In retrospect, I’m glad I accepted the invitation.

This morning was my third visit with the group. As I sat and listened (which I do a lot of), I smiled in amazement at how great the stories were that were being shared. Most were funny, but some were touching and heartfelt. I then wondered what a tragedy it would be if some of these priceless gems were never to be shared again … lost one day, as each of these storytellers passes on.

The solution to sharing stories so they are never lost is found in the way they are captured. The good news is that it’s easy to do so. Here are a few easy “how-to” approaches:

1. Audio recording – Technology has made this easy and inexpensive. There are many recorders on the market. Here is one that will record up to 144 hours and is easy to use: http://shop1.frys.com/product/5282437?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN_RSLT_PG . Just turn the devise on, set in on a table in the middle of the group and make sure your conversation is not more than 144 hours! Note: You should always ask permission to record a conversation. Some people have negative feelings about being recorded.  

2. Journaling/Taking Notes – Sometimes you just can’t beat the old-fashioned way of doing things. Bring a pen and paper and take notes as people talk. Don’t worry if you didn’t major in journalism. Just write down what you’d like to remember as it’s being said. You can always refine it when you have time later on.

3. Videotaping – One of my favorite stories from the LifeStories I’ve recorded is the one from a 77 year old gentleman who mentioned that for many years, before each Thanksgiving dinner, he would set up a tripod and his video camera at the corner of the table and simply turn it on before the meal began. Imagine if you had a library of your family’s past Thanksgiving dinners over the past 20 years. What a treasure!

Like the audio recording I mentioned above, technology has made video recording easy and inexpensive as well. Here’s an example: http://shop1.frys.com/product/5371168?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN_RSLT_PG

An amazing fact about videotaping is that soon after the conversation begins, most people get so much “into” the conversation, they forget that there’s a camera there recording everything. That makes capturing the stories even more priceless. Genuine conversations and stories are always the best kind.

4. Professional Personal Historians – When quality really matters and you want to make sure you “get it done right” the first time, hiring a professional is the way to go. The most common reason people do this is if they feel they only have one shot at the event or getting as much of the whole story in one sitting. That is what I do for families on a regular basis: http://www.lifestoriesalive.com/  . What you are left with when done professionally is truly an heirloom that can be shared proudly for generations to come.

The main point to remember is that if you don’t capture the stories in a way that can be shared with others, you might lose them forever.