A 110-Year-Old Lesson

In today’s Austin American-Statesman (online) I read a story about the death of a local lady, Amanda Roberts Jones, who lived to be 110 years old http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/austin/entries/2008/12/19/after_a_historic_vote_amanda_j.html . Several thoughts came to mind as I read this brief, remarkable story. One is that she lived during three different centuries. It’s mind-boggling to think that someone lived to see the part of the 1800s, all of the 1900s, and part of 2000s!

The lead of the story is that she lived to cast a ballot for an African-American president. This daughter of slaves who personally experienced racial bigotry through most of her life actually did last month what was unthinkable just a few years ago. I wonder, however, what feelings went through her mind when she cast that ballot? What images and memories raced through her head? 

The most important question, however, is prompted by a blogger in the first note underneath the article. A Stephen Taylor wrote, “I hope her family and local historians interviewed her and took notes.”  The question is, “Did they?” Part of me doesn’t want to know the answer, for I fear the answer is “No”. Answers to questions I raised above and to many questions that span her entire 110 years are precious heirlooms. Capturing them on video, as we do at LifeStories Alive http://www.lifestoriesalive.com/ , is a must.

Many of you (and most of your parents) don’t think their stories are important enough to capture on video. That is my greatest frustration as well as your greatest opportunity. What if Mrs. Jones was convincing enough to her relatives that she was nothing special and, therefore, refused to be interviewed? What if your parents and grandparents are telling you the same thing?  Here’s the main lesson learned: Don’t wait for their objections. Capture and preserve their stories now!

We never know when we will leave this wonderful thing we call life. And if we can be selfless enough to be concerned about our own great-grandchildren, we will not take “No” for an answer when it comes to capturing the life stories of ourselves or our loved ones. 

Let’s all think of Amanda Roberts Jones and say, “Thank you for the 110-year-old lesson you’ve taught us. May you (and your stories) rest in peace.”

The Holidays

One thing I ask of most of the LifeStory interviewees during the filming is, “Please describe a typical Christmas (Hanukkah) or Thanksgiving when you were a child.” The answers as you can imagine are priceless. There are funny stories, touching stories and stories with surprising themes, but the most common answers revolve around the wonderful times they had that brought family together. 

The answers are especially meaningful when I’m interviewing those in their 80s and 90s who describe Christmas during the Great Depression. While most of you might think the stories revolve around what they didn’t have, they instead beautifully  revolve around what they did have. Those special gifts that were hand made. Those innovative gifts of natural elements brought together with love in mind. Never have I heard a single story about how stressed out anyone was over the holidays.

While their faces light up describing that  special gift made from whatever was available by caring, loving hands, I am reminded of what I hear as I go around town during this season. I just can’t believe what I hear. “This isn’t going to be as good a Christmas as last year because we don’t have the money for the right gifts.” Or “We’re not going to be able to have Christmas this year.” I then ask myself, “What’s it all about anyway?” Whether you celebrate the miracles of the Maccabees or the birth of the messiah, it’s not about the gifts! It’s about being together with family and friends. It’s not the monetary value of  a gift, it’s about the joy you give of being with one another.

Here’s to a season of health, love, joy and what could make the season special for a loved one of yours. If you’re not sure of what I mean, just ask the oldest living person in your family … and watch their face light up as they give you their answer.

Touching Lives You Didn’t Think You Could Reach

I had lunch today with a fellow ZACH Theater  http://www.zachtheatre.org/ Board of Directors member. She asked about my business, LifeStories Alive http://www.lifestoriesalive.com/ . When I began to tell her about it, she said she’d already heard about it from someone else who had wonderful things to say about me and my business. She said whoever mentioned me was moved by my work on a personal level. I asked who it was and she couldn’t remember, but did remember this person going on and on about what a unique and beneficial business it is. Later in our conversation she remembered and mentioned by name  who it was she heard from. I don’t know that person and am sure we hadn’t met personally.

I say that not to toot my own horn (although to some the sound is already too loud) but to point out that the impressions that we leave with the things all of us do on a daily basis can effect or affect the lives of others … whether we know it or not. In this case I realized that I touched the life of someone I never knew. With this event brought the realization that I should mindfully conduct myself with the knowledge that my words and actions are being recorded in the minds of others. And, if my words and actions are positive, I could touch lives I never thought I could reach … in a good, long-lasting way.