Monday, January 25, 2010

Your Grandkids Will Thank You Someday

OK, the holidays are over, the January-February grey skies and less than ideal Cincinnati weather have settled in. For many of us this is a period when we have some free time. I have a project that makes use of some of this free time and those electronic gizmos that you may have found under the tree this year. Not only will it be fun, it will have a lasting and increased value over time.

How about capturing the lives and stories of your family? I am not talking about sorting through that big box of photos and newspaper clippings that is gathering dust on the top shelf of the hall closet. I am talking about getting that new video camera or MP3 player with built in audio record feature and sitting down with some members of family and let them tell their stories.

I bet that during the holidays when you were sitting around the dinner table some of those stories came out. We all love to hear them but seldom make the effort to save them. Once Aunt Grace or Uncle Bob are gone the stories and your family history will be lost.

The technology today is inexpensive, easy to use and ideal for developing a record, both significant and trivial, of your family’s history. The “in” word for this is “oral history.”

Here are some suggestions. Start with the older folks in your relationship. In many cases they have stories and life experiences that are nothing short of extraordinary. Some may or may not be comfortable with a video camera or audio recording device so make it as unobtrusive as possible. Put the camera on a tri-pod and focus it on their face. Set this up around the kitchen table. Turn on the camera and begin asking questions. In a short time you both will forget the camera and you will be amazed what you can learn if you have patience. Try not to interrupt. Just let them talk.

If you don’t have a video camera, take a look at your kid’s MP3 player. Many have a record feature that captures hours of good quality audio. The audio is stored in a format that can be easily copied to any computer and then burned on to a CD disc. Of course, the video can be stored that way as well.

The value of your work may not be evident for decades, but it will be appreciated. Just think about a kid born in the year 2100 being able to see and hear their great grandfather talking about his life at the turn of the century. It will be nothing short of awesome.

These marvelous electronic devices we have access to today can offer us much more than “American Idol” on our smart phone. Give it a try.

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