There's been a run on graveyards these past years. Not because more people are dying, but because more people are connecting the dots in their family tree. There were some TV programs that show famous people pursuing the story of their family's past, and those have fueled an explosion of interest in genealogy research. Just ask the librarians who are welcoming visitors from all over to their newly-enhanced genealogy resources.
Both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush called him one of the American Presidents that they revered the most, and he's right up there with Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln on Mount Rushmore - Theodore Roosevelt. He became a national hero, and soon President of the United States after his heroic leadership in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. The objective of his unit was to take this strategic Kettle Hill and then San Juan Hill. Ultimately, his troops would have to advance uphill in the face of withering enemy fire. And his soldiers would long remember the order he gave to launch what turned out to be an historic advance. Unlike many military leaders, Teddy Roosevelt did not say, "Charge!" Instead, he shouted, "Follow me!"
If it's spring in America, someone is going to get hit with floods unfortunately. Years ago, I think it was April 1997, North Dakota got hit hard - especially in the area around Grand Forks, North Dakota. One woman who had to flee her home was interviewed by a reporter. She was eating her lunch in a school shelter where hundreds of victims were bivouacked. She must have surprised that reporter when she said, "You know, I feel very fortunate." I mean, after all, what had been her home only a day before was now awash in sewage and fuel. Then she gave her reasons for feeling fortunate. And you often hear this after a disaster. She just said, "My children are all safe. The rest is just stuff."
You know, we celebrated not too long ago the wonderful first guys to land on the moon and walk on the moon. Neil Armstrong, of course. But, you know, when he first stepped onto the surface of the moon for his "one small step for man," he really didn't look like himself. No, he was totally wrapped up in that modern-day armor we call a space suit. Well, there is a reason of course. The moon is an environment hostile to humans. An unequipped, unprotected astronaut would have died in an instant of lunar exposure. Why? No oxygen. That big pack on his back - that was the margin of survival.
My wife was a really gifted photographer. Actually, she missed some memorable photographs because of her husband. See, I was in too much of a hurry to stop. Here's how the scenario went, "Honey, look at that picture!" Well, I don't see what she sees. But there is one there, and it's usually some beautiful scene somewhere we were driving. And on several occasions I would say, "Hey, you know we'll be back this way a little later. Why don't we get it then?" Somehow the same picture isn't there later. The same objects are usually there, but the lighting, the shadows, the mood; the magic moment has changed. I remember one time we were driving along in New England, and there was this cabin nestled back in the woods in this little valley, and a beautiful rainbow over that. And I said...Now, here was a really smart guy, "Honey, listen, we'll be back in just a few minutes." Well, now, you know that picture wasn't there a few minutes later. Duh! It's amazing how there's this brief...I guess you'd call it a window during which you can capture the scene, and then it's gone. It might be the same players and the same setting, but the golden moment is gone.
A local pastor told me about an incident that reportedly happened when a world-famous professional golfer was playing in Saudi Arabia. Apparently, the King was so impressed with this man's playing that he said to him, "I'd like to give you a gift of appreciation." This renowned golfer told the King that no gift was necessary; he just appreciated the opportunity to play in his country. But the King was insistent, not only that the golfer receive a gift, but that he could name any gift he wanted.
I was in my office, trying to crawl out of an avalanche of papers on my desk. Suddenly, there was a knock on my door and in came one of our team members with his wife and their bright-eyed eight-month-old little boy, Zachary. My wife joined our little Zachary party back then and proceeded to plop this animated little bundle right in the middle of my desk, in the middle of a mountain of paperwork, right where I couldn't ignore him. Oh, great! And you know something, I didn't actually mind. Little Zachary and I had a great conversation, which means I did all the talking. We played, we laughed, and Zachary creatively reorganized (shall we say) the project I was working on. It was one of the best things that happened that day. It took me a while to reconstruct my project, but it was sure fun having that little guy right in the middle of everything!
I really hate to be viewed as a typical tourist. But when I went to South Africa a few years ago, I was Tommy Tourist. Yeah, I had my camera clicking everywhere. My friend, Ted, was kind enough to take me between the conferences where I was speaking to Kruger National Park; probably the finest natural game park in all the world. Of course, I was seeing things I'd never seen before. I'd see a giraffe, or a rhinoceros out in the wild or in my dream. I just wanted to see wild elephants, and I did. And I'd yell at Ted like Tommy Tourist, "Stop! Pull over the car!" I'd promptly jump out and start shooting pictures. And he patiently said to me, "Ron, move quickly, and I'll watch your back." I said, "Why?" I didn't think my back was that much fun to watch. He said, "Ron, you have to understand that in this tall grass, there may be lions." Well, he went on to tell me about the tourist that had been mauled while taking pictures in Kruger National Park recently. It's amazing how fast I could get back in the car, and what great pictures you can take out the window. I learned to take a lot of pictures from the car. You know it's great to know that there's someone watching your back when there might be a lion ready to pounce on you.
Just a few years ago they had the battle of Little Big Horn again, and Custer lost again. Actually it was part of a movie on the life of the great Oglala Lakota, Chief Crazy Horse. My Lakota friend, Jerry, was asked to be one of Crazy Horse's warriors in the movie. Now, one challenge was riding bareback. They had to do that full speed in the battle scenes, and of course, the big scene was the portrayal of Custer's last stand. Interestingly enough, Jerry can't even find himself in those scenes because the warriors were going by so fast in a cloud of dust. Someone asked him how many warriors they needed to reenact a battle that involved so many Native Americans. He said, "Oh, about 80." Hollywood of course is all about illusion, so they just had these 80 guys keep charging up to the soldiers, turn their horses sharply and circle around again and again and again. There weren't nearly as many warriors on the other side as it looked like in the movie. Custer might have wished that the real odds might have been that even.
Aunt Betty's wedding ring had been in the family for three generations, and it was passed down to my wife. There's probably no piece of jewelry that she treasured more than this one. But she couldn't wear it because Aunt Betty's ring size was a lot larger than my wife's little fingers. So Karen identified a jeweler whose craftsmanship she trusted and she entrusted this heirloom to him to be downsized. To be honest, she was a little nervous leaving it with anyone, but she did commit it to this jeweler. When he called that the ring was ready, she could hardly wait to see what he had done with it. Well, the diamonds were intact, the ring looked the same, but it fit her perfectly. He didn't make it into a necklace or a pendant. He didn't change the setting of the stones. Of course not. He took what was entrusted to him and just made it better.