What do you want to give the world?
I've never posed this question to myself. So...this is a 24-hour pass at it. When I know I've made the right decision, I depend on two key indicators to confirm that. One, my gut. If it doesn't clench then it means my body has accepted my decision and won't fight it. Two, my mind. The double-think lays down and goes to sleep. When I thought through the answer to this question, both of these checkpoints signaled their acceptance. I slept well last night.
What would I like to give the world? Add recognition and acceptance, subtract unqualified tolerance, skim off a little nostalgia, multiply by dignity, and round up to the nearest affirmation.
Professionally, I get to do this every day. A plaque on the wall of my grad school department read, "Within these hallowed halls are the future stewards of our national and cultural heritage." I go to work and take care of the material and archival evidence that human beings lived, worked, aspired, failed, loved, and fought. I devise and implement organizational systems that will keep historical information relevant, accessible, and complete. I tell stories. All day long, I tell stories. And I love to tell stories. I often wish I could have a spot on the evening news, reading a story. I would read the story Sarah Carlyle tells her Uncle George about her "dear Mamma's" passing and how she feels about taking on the management of her father's house at age 12, "which is, as yet, too much for me." We would talk about two male college students trying to heft a rather overweight (but beautiful, I am assured) woman through a window to escape the college president who was pursuing them after some infraction.
Okay, I would pretty much invent StoryCorps.
I've been thinking a lot lately about losing and gaining people. What it means to have someone in your life and then for them to be gone. Doesn't matter how, the result is often the same. Your routines alter, and you cast about looking for someone else to be "the one solid the spaces lean on. " When we are gone, where are we? Let's face it. No one really knows. When we add people, where do we put them? Do we make new spaces and categories, or can we fit them into old molds?
Museums get to do a little something about that, true. But what do I want to do about it in my non-work life? Look people in the eyes, acknowledge when they serve me in some way, and treat their contributions to my life with the respect that created beings ought to have for one another.
It pleases me that I don't know who asked this question. It frees me from manipulating the answer. I would give this to you, Asker, as I would to you, Reader.