Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Season For Giving Back

Since we are fast approaching the holiday season—wait! Did I say approaching? Let me start that again:

Since we have already been hopelessly engulfed by yet another holiday season, and since I’ve already gone and done it by adding a gifty post of my own yesterday, I may as well stop fighting the torrent and just give in to the rush. After all, I do have some of my own ideas to spout off about for the next few days.

In case you’ve never noticed it while perusing the posts on this blog, one of my themes is to encourage all of us to remember to give back to the community which first gave us a hand up when we were newbies. “Giving Back” is a big idea, in my book—mainly because I’m so grateful for all the help I’ve gotten over the years from librarians (Deb Ruth, you caught that, right? I said librarians first), archivists (that one’s for you, Melissa Mannon!), genealogy mailing lists, online forums and message boards.

Over the course of this past year, while researching topics to post on A Family Tapestry, I’ve run across some interesting items that were, well, not exactly related to genealogy—but ideas and examples that spoke to the heart. Okay, admittedly, sometimes they tangentially related to genealogy in a right-brained sort of way. But I never really had a slot to put these topics in, so I’ve just set them aside with the warm fuzzy thought, “Neat…someday I’ll have to mention this.”

Well, let this be the today in which I start. While I promise I’ll get back to the core of genealogy research and family history stories soon, I can’t bypass this holiday season without sharing some thoughts of my own. Since there are a few, I can’t just pile them all up in one gigantic post, or I’ll wear out your pot of coffee. So, to be considerate of you who are sneaking in to read during your coffee break, I’ll share a thought each day.

To start off, I wanted to share a video. Now chances are, this video has already gone viral and you have seen numerous reruns of the thing. However, in case that assumption’s wrong—and mainly because I just love the sentiments here—I want to share this timely pre-Christmas idea.

Remember when I mentioned re-thinking giving? When I talked about the trouble with unleashing a Me Generation upon a Black Friday shopping stage? I mentioned how I’m rethinking Christmas giving—instead of giving what they already have to people who don’t need any more, giving to those who truly are in need in the name of the person I wish to honor.

A short trailer for an upcoming film carries that idea one step further. It gives us a glimpse of who some of those people-in-need might be. It allows us to step into their lives for a moment and see how resourceful they have been in helping themselves—and each other—to capture bright moments in the drudgery of their own lives. It definitely inspires me to give to those who have learned how to give to themselves in spite of overwhelming odds.

Part of what called to me from this brief film clip was the music. Since music was my first love in life, I’ve always paid attention to the stories of those who have discovered that same spark of joy. Classical music, in particular, seems to be the domain of the well-heeled, the privileged, the upper class. But see how the classics, introduced into surprising settings, remake the whole outlook on life. To take a germ of an idea such as the power behind the classics of music, and let that be planted and sprung to life can be an amazing process. If you haven’t seen this video yet, you will sense that yourself, as you watch it (below).

What does that have to do with genealogy? The barely-discernable nexus is that of creativity and passion. Just as the musicians who conceived this phenomenal project in the poorest districts of Paraguay discovered, a simple but elegant idea borne of creativity may allow powerful transformations. While we, in the (admit it, now) drudgery of genealogy research, may not see our tasks as cutting edge creativity, we, too, provide a type of spark that allows others to catch a glimpse of life purpose. We, too, take the “junk” of old—sometimes discarded—records and ephemera, and turn them into stories that can make a difference.

How do they make a difference? When we help someone turn from mundane life to see beauty in someone else’s story—even a story at first full of pain—we make a difference. When we revitalize the public’s interest in history—even in the guise of personal or “micro” history—we benefit our society by calling to remembrance the important lessons to be learned from others’ experiences. When we learn to recreate lives by crafting stories out of dry data, we bring that history to life. That’s when people get interested in genealogy—when they see the possibilities and couple that with that deep-seated hunger to know where they came from.

Though we aren’t playing instruments, per se, and though we don’t quite form a symphony with our individual projects, we are seeking to create something that, in turn, may very well inspire someone else, allow others to see the possibilities, and encourage them to join in and give it a try, themselves.

Inspiration, itself, can be a most powerful gift.


  1. What a beautiful post Jacqi. It is very thought provoking.

    I had not heard a thing about this movie and watching the teaser gave me chills. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Michelle, I only heard about the project on Saturday, myself, thanks to a music/work friend who forwarded it on Facebook. This is the kind of project that puts everything else in perspective for me.

  2. Replies
    1. You're welcome, Grant. It certainly speaks of a worthwhile project that deserves notice.

  3. Jacqi, This video is astounding. To hear Bach coming out of that cello from recycled parts . . . it brought tears to my eyes. I immediately shared it on Facebook.

    Thank you!

    1. Thanks for passing the word along, Mariann. It does indeed carry an overwhelming message.

      Actually, I found some more videos on this project, including one report that runs for about thirteen minutes. You can find these by Googling "Landfill Harmonic" or searching on YouTube. The longer version is very informative and provides background information on how the project got started. Obviously, it takes years of training to attain that level of musical skill, so there is a lot of backstory to this excerpt I showed, above.

      All in all, a very heartwarming story, indeed.


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