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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Life Legacy Stories: Taking the Time to Listen

A dear Facebook friend, Becky Shaw Mantooth, recently wrote an inspiring article at her blog Becky's Daily Thoughts about her "dream job"...how she would like to travel the country... even the world and just listen to all the many life stories that people , religions, cultures and countries.  She actually got me to thinking about an encounter I had a few years ago.



These stories of those who are NOT famous, rich and brilliant can be just as amazing...aren't they?  Your blog post brought to mind the most wonderful encounter I had with an older woman in a Walgreen's Drug Store a few years ago.  She was there shopping with a few of her Assisted Living Friends and trying to get around the store with a basket and a walker.  I saw her struggling to get things down off of shelves and carry the basket...so I asked her if I could help her shop.  In the most distinct Brooklyn accent she told me: "Hon, you must be an angel sent straight from God...Yes!"...and for the next hour this delightful curmudgeon kept me enraptured with stories of her family, children and her youth in NYC before, during WWII and after.


She told me of how she had kissed Frank Sinatra after a 1940’s concert and that a picture that was printed in LIFE magazine of him had her in it also…gazing up in to his face along with several other girls at the foot of the concert stage.  She told me: “He was what you kids would call a “hunk”…I just thought he was dreamy!!”…as she let out a teenage sigh from long ago. I marveled at how I could see the youthful sparkle in her eyes as she told the story again...I am sure those a the Nursing Home, her friends and family had heard the story far too many times for their liking and had become bored with it...I counted myself as so lucky, because I was someone who heard the story with fresh ears and interest.
Frank Sinatra performing in a benefit concert for Italian relief at
 Manhattan Center in 1945.

As I walked around shopping with her...hanging on to every up close and personal account of the war, her distant family she had lost in the Holocaust...her brother being wounded at Pearl Harbor; her husband dropping dead of a heart attack and leaving her to raise four children; her son who ran to Canada to avoid the Viet Nam War draft and her Great Grandson who was serving in the Marines in Iraq...along with many little stories of happiness and importance for her.  I never saw her again, but for that short time I spent with her, taking the time to listen to her Life Legacy stories was wonderful. I was honored that she would share them with me.  I may have helped her shop that day, but in truth she opened my eyes to the fact that there are probably so many hidden, insignificant stories (but not to the person it happened) that need to be told...it is a history that may be lost.  This woman led me to realize that I need to tell my story also. 

I wondered how many people like her go to their rest without being able to tell their story from their little unnoticed corner of the world. I always thought I would love to record these stories of Life Legacy...Hmmm????

Yes, this would be a wonderful job…Maybe we have something here, Becky... Recording and telling Life Legacy stories. 

Take the time to listen to the stories your elders have to tell...there is wisdom...history and culture held within them...I assure you...you will be blessed by them...AND make sure you pass on YOUR stories to your young ones too.  It is yet another way to pay it forward or pass it on!

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5 comments:

Becky said...

Thanks so much for referring to my blog. I love your story..and your are so right, if we would just take the time to listen to "life stories" of those around us, we would be so blessed. I know for myself some of the greatest stories I have heard was from visiting rest homes.
Your and inspiration to all of us Amy. <3

Amy L. Harden said...

You inspire me...dear Becky...when I read your work...I see the fingerprint of God. You write beautifully...you are a great storyteller!

Itsme. said...

I work in an assisted living facility. It is the most rewarding job I have ever had. Nothing makes them happier than to have someone stop, ask them about their lives and listen. I am sure she was grateful for your help, not even realizing what she gave back.

Roy A. Ackerman, PhD, EA said...

Amy:
You are absolutely correct. We need to take the time to listen to others' stories and to transmit our own. Companies need to do this as well.
I am fortunate that the legacy of my family was transmitted to me over the years. My children would have been more fortunate if my mom and dad had put their stories down on paper- or tape- as they thought they would one day. (My mom started to dictate hers- a week before she no longer could.)
In other words- do it now!

Amy L. Harden said...

My father was a great storyteller. In fact, this was the one thing that I miss the most about him. He could tell a story about his childhood that was like watching a "Little Rascals" short. For years we tried to get him to sit down and write them out or speak them in to a tape recorder so our kids could hear HIM tell the stories. By the time he realized that he truly needed to do this...his cancer was advanced and his energy levels low. He may have felt he wouldn't tell them as well as he had in the past, so he just didn't get around to it. We know he had the intention, because he had a tape recorder and many tape cassettes sitting by his chair ready for recording. He may not have gotten to it because it just wasn't the same without having someone there to listen and react to the mischief...laugh at the jokes and ask wondrous questions about his past. My mother no longer held this wonder, so had heard the stories for over 50 years. A new set of ears or ears who loved to hear the stories over and over again (like my sister and I)were what was needed.

The stories are not lost because I have decided to incorporate them in to my books and short stories that I will be writing.

When my husband read this blog post...he said...now there is a premise for a novel right there. Maybe that is what we need to be doing as writers...helping to record our history through memoir or biography...collections of stories that people gather at nursing homes, assisted living centers.

We also need to encourage the telling of our family history to our children..otherwise it becomes lost and those left behind struggle with putting the puzzle pieces together.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the comments here. If you have family history stories you would like to share, please let me know and we can have you here as a guest blogger.

Have a blessed day! Numbers 6: 24-26

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