Saturday, December 12, 2015
A Season For Giving Back
During this season in which everyone—meaning well, I'm sure—rushes around in that annual frenzy of gift buying for everyone on "the list," I often wish for a different way. Yes, I know the reason for the season sprang from a kernel of mind-boggling generosity. We need to keep focused on that kind of gift. So while everyone is distracted with gift-giving, I'm starting to think about giving back.
In the genealogy world, in particular, I'm thinking of all the people who have poured themselves into the lives of others, helping them learn, making genealogical collections possible, connecting resources and researchers. Some of those people have been doing that kind of giving back for years. While generosity is its own reward, surely such angels could use a kindly-bestowed "thank you" every once in a while.
In the digital genealogy world, there is room for giving back, as well. Perhaps in the online world, because it is sanitized from the touch of human interactions, we lull ourselves into a detached sense of entitlement: "they" are out there, putting documents online, creating indices, sharing website links. Somehow, if "they" doesn't have a face, we forget to treat "them" like the real people they are.
I'm thinking primarily of resources like the website FamilySearch.org, where their overwhelming multitude of digitized documents may sometimes make us forget that it's real people who volunteer to "index" those records, one by one, so we can access them online. Sometimes that grand scale of enormity beguiles us into forgetting that it still is real people who provide the traction so we can access those useful resources.
I'm not suggesting that a full halt be called to the holiday season—hey, do you think the gal who can't yet bring herself to give up her Windows XP-driven genealogy program has got her Christmas tree up for 2015 yet?!—but that we plan to provide ourselves with an antidote.
I'm thinking about those quiet moments in the lull between Christmas and New Year's Day—now only two weeks away—and how I like to take that week to settle in and do the quiet work of organizing the upcoming year's utilities and tools. That would be an excellent time to do some giving back—like some indexing. Think of it as a form of thank-you note: a silent gesture that says "I appreciate all that others did to help get me started on my research, and now I want to help someone else the same way."
Anyone care to grab a glass of eggnog, pull up a cozy chair, and join me in a season of giving back?
Above: "The White Veil," landscape by American artist Willard Leroy Metcalf circa 1900; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.