In the movie “Bull Durham,” Susan Sarandon’s character Annie Savoy confides to Kevin Costner’s character Crash Davis the morning after their tryst that due to her love of horses, she must have been Catherine the Great in a previous life. Davis laughs and says how come when people bring up previous lives they are never Joe Schmo? To his point, history is made up of us normal, everyday people more so than the ones that get notoriety, whether it is deserved or undeserved. We live our lives the best we can and sometimes it matters not who the leaders are, unless they have done something very bad or very good.
I was watching PBS Newshour earlier in the week and I found a segment very moving and enlightening which I will call “Bottom-up history.” David Isay formed an organization called StoryCorps about ten years ago, whose purpose is to capture recorded interviews with everyday people. His organization began in Grand Central Station in New York, but moved onto several other cities. It now has a mobile unit that caravans across America. And, recently he has teamed with some innovators to craft cartoon stories than will be aired on PBS. A link to his Wikipedia page is below.*
His mission is to capture the bottom-up history and not the top down version that is taught in school or makes the headlines. The interviews are facilitated to tease out as much information as possible. In his view, we have a wealth of information in our older people or folks who have gone through amazing journeys that needs to be captured. I have recently seen similar efforts with young volunteers who help older people capture their histories.
Our blogging friend Z who lives in Ecuador captures these stories on a daily basis with her pictures and interactions. ** I often find myself gravitating toward the people she meets, their faces, their postures, their livelihoods and their interactions. This is where life exists. It is not the air-brushed, heavily made-up, well-dressed, and polished images we find online or in photo shoots. Life lives in the one who gets up everyday to feed their children, their animals and themselves and goes to work.
And, it has been that way for ages. For every Catherine the Great, there are millions of Joe Schmo’s. We Joes and Josephine’s are the ones who ran across open fields in Poland to escape Nazi shooters with our child holding onto our back. We are the ones that climbed walls to get out of danger when extremists came to our village. We are the ones who hid people in our basement to escape persecution. We are the ones who boycotted buses in Alabama and walked to work. We are the ones who journeyed to America with nothing but a suitcase, our family and our dreams for a better life.
And, we are the ones who with quiet dignity do jobs that we don’t love every day, then get up the next day and do them again. We are the ones who parent our children, sometimes without a partner, and then work a full-time job or several part-time ones to make ends meet. We are the ones who forego taking our medicine, so a child can be clothed and fed or maybe get that used musical instrument, soccer shoes or ballet tutu.
Hero, star and superstar are words that are thrown around much too often. Very few people who are given that term are truly worthy of the label. To me, the real heroes of the world go about their business in quiet fashion. They are the unsung heroes, who I have only touched on above. They are the bottom-up history of the world. Let’s find out more from them, while we can. Talk to a relative, friend or someone who interests you and learn more about how they arrived to this point. Your ancestry is in the stories, not the lineage.
Have a peaceful rest of your year and best wishes for 2015.
* Here is the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Isay
** Here is a link to Z’s blog: http://playamart.wordpress.com/