Here is a picture of me at a local author event hosted at Barnes and Noble. I am sitting next to a gentleman who was a World War Two veteran. I am a history buff of sorts and found his story to be very captivating. It was not only because I am interested in that period of history and that specific event. Although that is what his book is about. There were also a collection of books on the same subject in the entrance of the store. What made this gentleman’s book so interesting to me?
This is what made this moment so special, while the other books in the store can reference great sources and have archive photos, this man was relaying his personal story that he experienced. The photos in his book are his personal photos taken during that time period. You not only hear facts, you hear stories and even more important, you get the feeling of what that time was like. Those do not come from a long lost soldier’s diary, but from the mind and mouth of someone who lived it. That is history you cannot buy.
The lesson here is one that I think too often gets lost. Value your elders. Sure you may have heard the story your uncle is telling you a thousand times before, and maybe the story grandpa relates is more embellished each and every time, but they are living history. When I think of how many stories I only half remember that my grandfather told me before he passed away, I almost feel ashamed of myself. My uncle who was a library of good jokes and stories yet to be told recently passed away as well. There were so many questions I would love to ask them both. So many stories I would like to hear one more time.
The lesson here is to value your elders while they are still around. Ask all the questions you can think of. When they tell you that story you may have heard a million times before, really listen. Ask them to tell you more. Sometimes sharing their stories allows them to not only relive some amazing times they had, but to feel important and to pass along lessons. I am still learning from stories I have heard from those who have passed away years ago. The sad part is I could have learned a lot more had I bothered to pay closer attention.
P.S. – this gentleman’s book is titled A Tourist in Uniform I encourage us all to buy a copy and help support a veteran who is sharing with us his personal stories of war.