“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” ~ Steve Jobs
Sitting on my living room floor, my box of family history files open and silently taunting me, I prayed to be guided to SOMETHING, ANYTHING that wouldn’t bore the socks off of the 8-11-yr-old children in the class I was asked to teach only two days earlier.
To top off my anxiety, my daughter would be in the class, and she reminded me a zillion times to “make it fun!”
I had two predicaments: One, I didn’t have a passion for family history anymore. It was dead and buried back in June. And two, I felt like I was going to be a zoo-keeper for an hour to a group of children whose attention depended on a grandiose performance that would entertain and mesmerize.
The answer to the second predicament would fall into place if the Heavens would just open up and talk to me. Little did I know that the first problem would be solved by the end of the night.
My assignment was to teach them how to fill out a pedigree chart and a family group record. If we all wanted to go home crying I’d stick to that plan. But I’d already told their parents to do what they could and to send them with filled-out charts and forms to avoid the train wreck of putting six monkeys in a cage with no banana.
So, there I knelt searching for my “banana”. And in my desperation I found it. I still had no idea how the evening would unfold. I still couldn’t escape the vision of glazed-over eyes and writhing bodies on the floor that would be all my fault if I failed to deliver. But, if nothing else, I felt a distinct confirmation from the Man Upstairs that there was a story to tell and a satchel full of things to share.
I greeted the children after eyeing a bag of lollipops sitting on a chair nearby, promising me to step in as a carrot on a stick if my banana turned rotten. After a quick agreement between me and the lollipops, I breathed a sigh of relief and pulled out the small leather pouch with the story waiting inside – the story of my two great uncles, serving in different regiments, meeting in France during the first World War on the day one of them would be killed in action.
The storytelling lasted about five minutes, but time stood still.
By the end of it I knew something profound had happened.
Our hearts had been touched and real learning had taken place. The children sitting before me around a table in the middle of the room hadn’t stirred. They’d become emotionally connected to three people – my great-grandmother, Olga, and her two sons, Vic and Roy. They remembered the country where Roy had died, the year that World War I had started, and a bit about the mode of transportation and communication of that era because Olga received news of her son’s death by telegram and couldn’t just jump on a plane to attend his burial. My ancestors had become real to these children, and they started to wonder aloud at what had become of them. History had come alive and was exciting, and was easier to understand and remember.
AND…the children had remembered my ancestors’ names! I was so moved.
Why that story? (Read it here) I felt Roy’s presence the strongest. Maybe because he had died so young. I think he likes hearing his story told. I felt like he was really the teacher.
By sharing his story he helped us all feel deeply about what truly matters in a chaotic world that is full of meaningless distractions that leave us hungry and thirsty for more.
More love. More deep connections to people who matter to us.
THAT’S my banana! My passion is being available to people who want to share it. They’re out there. They might just need to be enticed a bit to get started. THAT’S my job and my joy. The reward is the emotional connection we both feel. It’s very fulfilling.
My passion for family history has been rekindled, but if the flame is going to burn brightly I will have to “just do it”, as they say. There is no magic formula for me to feel fulfilled other than focus on what brings me to that place where the boundary between this world and the next is obscured. That is where I feel an intense desire to find, enjoy, and tell my ancestors’ stories, and to stand ready to help those who want to do the same, but need a little help.
I contemplated why I’d lost that connection. I felt a smile from Roy. The words came to my mind, “We’re always here. You’ve been very distracted. If you want to keep the connection strong you’ll have to make an effort. A one-sided relationship isn’t a strong one.”
So much like life. Isn’t it?
- What matters to you? What is your “great work”?
- What do you do to keep the passion burning bright?