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© Tom Gilbert

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March-April, 2019

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Recognizing Rebirth and Renewal

April 22, 2019

Today is 
EarthDay. It's a good day to recognize that the pattern of life, especially for the life we see in nature here on our one shared planet, is that of birth - growth - death. And the cycle repeats.

There is much to appreciate about our wonderful world. The amazing diversity truly boggles the mind when you take time to notice it. We humans have a huge responsibility to respect our planet and help it stay vibrant. There is always upheaval, but we don't need to add it by being inept stewards of the Earth and our fellow creatures great and small.

Spring in the Northern Hemisphere is our time of renewal. We just had Easter and for those who believe in the message of the feast it means life is more than we think or often see. Resurrection is a real concept in both a literal and metaphorical way.

I was reflecting on the twentieth anniversary of the sad day in Littleton, Colorado. April 20, 1999 was a day of unspeakable violence and tragedy at Columbine High School. Those who survived have had to deal with a lot of sadness, anger, grief and despair. And unfortunately gun violence continues to assault our schools, places of worship, and public gathering spots. It is not easy, but from these tragedies rebirth and renewal are possible.

Former Columbine High School principal Frank DeAngelis shared how he struggled with the tragedy and details his journey in his new memoir, They Call Me Mr. De. You can read more about it with the People Magazine article  and listen to audio from an interview with him on WBUR.

Intergenerational Story Sharing Between Chicago Seniors and 8th Grade Students

April 9, 2019

There are those who say that the young people of today don't care about the stories of their elders. Maybe that's true for some, but a group of 8th graders from St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago's Jefferson Park found out that many elderly people have lived fascinating lives with great stories to tell. These students engaged in an educational experience as they interviewed residents of Central Baptist Village in Norridge (see Chicago Tribune story).

They brought new and old school technology to interview and capture the stories. There were tablets and computers, but also notebooks and pens.

The end result, which I highly applaud, is that the young learned from the seniors. Life experiences are great teachers, both for the person who lived it and for those who get the story passed on to them.

Not only did the elders get appreciated by an interested audience who captured their stories, they also shared a meal and conversation. What a wonderful event. It was coordinated by the founder of MemoirforMe, Nora Kerr. She's a parent of a couple of the students at the school and also truly understands the value of preserving life stories. She is having these stories uploaded to StoryCorps where they will be archived for future generations.

Plant Seeds Now for Future Story Sharing

April 4, 2019

It is Spring time and while many of us are preparing gardens and yards for new growth it might also benefit us to think about how we should be tilling the soil of our personal history. There are countless stories for us to recall and share with our families. It is just as likely that there will be some great experiences and stories in the future that are worth preserving.

If you are planning a vacation think about how you might want to pass along highlights of your travels. When I was a kid people took pictures that were converted to slides and we'd watch family slide shows as we reminisced about the trip to Disneyland, the beach or to our grandparents house in Arizona.

My wife and I will be going to Italy to explore the Tuscany region. It's a lifelong dream. What will we see and experience? Many great things, from art, food, ancient lands and cities, to all kinds of other cultural wonderments. It will be special to go on this trip, but it will also be something to share our experience with our children, grandchildren, siblings and other relatives. Just as I have already met some people who have told me about their travels to Europe, I have an idea we may be doing the same for others after our adventure.

I read an interesting article in GRAND, the magazine for grandparents. Build and Share Your Legacy Now by relationship counselors and husband/wife team Judith and Bob Wright touches on some of the themes I am posting here.

Make plans to look forward as well as back and share some memories and experiences. People love stories and that is really what history is all about. Have you ever noticed that STORY is part of the word history?

Teaching About Immigrant Stories

March 24, 2019

The stories of people who have come to America over the years are important for many reasons. Everyone has a story. Discovering those stories and teaching about the lessons of struggle, desperation, hope and opportunity that were - and still are - a part of the human journey teaches us a lot.

It teaches us that even though people can come from differnt countries, cultures and backgrounds we all have some things in common. So much of the trouble we all face is finding places to live where we can be accepted, not rejected, for who we are. Acceptance along with welcome goes a long way towards building bridges. Rejection and keeping people out tends to build isolation and fear.

In my 5th grade class each year we do a project about immigration. We discuss many things. We learn about why people leave their homes and travel to foreign lands. We also learn how they do it. 
Each student does a project about a famous immigrant to America so that they can learn about the wide variety of people who came to this nation seeking a new life, whether they are coming for refuge or opportunity. The kids get excited when they learn about some of these people and their stories. Many don't realize how many movies stars, athletes, scientists, writers, and "movers and shakers" of history came to America from some other place.

Immigrants arriving at Ellis IslandOur country would be very different without the millions of immigrants who came to America, who helped build this nation. Most were not famous, but all are important, for each of them is a human being. One of the resources we use in our Immigration Project is the Scholastic web site about immigration stories of yesterday and today. Much of the focus is on Ellis Island and its place in history. There is a fascinating interactive tour on the site that allows you to explore the many stations incoming immigrants went through to get processed. Lots of interesting photos and audio. You can explore the site here.

I know one of the driving forces in our lives is a desire to be safe and protected. I also know that is touted as a primary reason to keep borders secure. We all can agree that we don't want our homes and lives threatened by terrorists and criminals that might come to our land seeking to harm us. But that is just one part of the great picture of people desiring to come to a country that has a great history of welcoming the tired, poor and huddled masses.

Aretha Franklin Tribute - One of a Kind

March 11, 2019

Last night the CBS television network aired an incredible tribute to the late Queen of Soul, the one and only Aretha Franklin. It was a star-studded event with many amazin
g singers from a wide range of genres. That was fitting as Aretha Franklin was great singing any type of music. It was fun and emotional to hear renditions sung with all the gusto and love that these various performers could give. From Alicia Keys, Patti LaBelle and Celine Dion to John Legend, Yolanda Adams and Jennifer Hudson (and many more) it was a memorable night. I find it especially appropriate that this Grammy Awards Tribute was aired during Women's History Month.

Aretha Franklin's influence on people through her music and activism has been widely noted, especially since her passing on August 16, 2018. I, for one, am looking forward to the Aretha biopic that is being made with Jennifer Hudson in the starring role. She was handpicked for the project by Aretha herself.

They Called Him "The Kid"

March 7, 2019

What's in a nickname?

How's that for a question? Nicknames are pretty common. I bet you've had one or more. My dad called me "Butch" when I was about seven or eight. I remember not liking it.

Some nicknames come out of common usage. For instance, a parent may just call one of their kids "boy" or "girl". In a loving way, you know, like girl! Get over here!

I know of someone who calls one of her sons "Baby Brother" and one of her daughters "Yady". But she actually didn't come up with the names, it was other family members who called them that and it stuck. That's kind of how nicknames work. Someone starts it and it catches on.

Billy the Kid, a famous western outlaw, did much of his carousing in New Mexico. I live here in "The Land of Enchantment" and New Mexico was truly the wild, wild west back in "The Kid's" day. There is a new movie just coming out about Billy and his nemesis, the sheriff, Pat Garrett. It's coincidentally titled, The Kid.

Nicknames can be fun or frivolous, but for those of us who have one it is part of our story. Here's looking at you, kid.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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