I started StoryKeeping in 2009 with the belief I wasn’t the only grandchild who loved their grandparents and wanted to retain their stories. I began with a single digital voice recorder in 2009 by focusing solely on audio productions.
I recognize I’m fortunate to do what I do. On a 4-hour drive down to Harlingen I spent some time thinking about how I’ve never been hired to interview a jerk. When a client exhibited poor behavior a few years back I fired them. While I’m not independently wealthy from StoryKeeping I am certainly enriched in many ways. One of the best ways I’m enriched is by the bonds I form with those I interview and their families.
A couple years ago I was at an Association of Personal Historians conference. I was one of a handful of men in a room full of mostly white women, and it struck me how few minorities there were in the room. Was the business of capturing legacies for white people only?
I was asked to speak to the Chicago A&M Club for their annual Muster celebration on April 21, 2018. It was an absolute honor. Their membership went above and beyond ensuring Sarah and I enjoyed ourselves and felt comfortable in their city. While we were in town we checked off some tourist boxes. Pizza at Lou Malnati’s. Italian beef and hot dogs at Portillo’s. Millennium Park and “The Bean.” Wind in our faces.
We were two weeks into the month, and while I had already hit my monthly goal there was no option but my termination. I accepted what he said. It’s not like I had another option, but after I hung up I began to question the logic.
Older generations typically don’t like the idea of talking about themselves. “Oh, nobody wants to hear me talk!” “I didn’t do anything special.” These are things StoryKeeping hears regularly. I let the storyteller know that, while the stories are about them, the reason we’re capturing their legacy has more to do with their descendants.
Sending off saliva has become wildly popular as people search for clarity in their legacy. The concept is as odd as it is compelling. For roughly $100 it’s worth a try, isn’t it? Societal struggles fuel the curiosity. Employees are weighing their integrity against their careers. Parents are striving to instill standards in their children. Grandparents are wondering if the latest generation even cares to hear their story. A quick legacy fix is more appealing than ever.
Over three years ago she called me upset that her father had been diagnosed with stage four leukemia, and she needed me to capture his legacy as soon as possible. Her father was receiving treatment at a local hospital, so I loaded up my gear and captured his life story over the next three afternoons.
We have to make peace with the fact that in the case of natural disasters unpredictable things are going to happen. Safety measures will be tested and broken. Containers will cease to contain. Bags will be punctured. Water will rise higher than we imagined. Looters will take what isn’t theirs to take. Where does this leave us?
Our world is changing at an increasingly rapid pace. Families are scattered across the country and even the globe. People have connectivity overload yet lack connection. The work of personal historians is more important than ever, and I’m excited to be right in the middle of it all.