I was looking through a magazine this afternoon. Actually, I was stalling, because I couldn't think of anything to write for today, and I was sort of hoping for inspiration. Then I saw a picture of an American soldier from World War II. He was probably in his early 20s. It's funny, in pictures from a generation or two ago, people always seem to look older than they really were. I wonder if that's true for us, too. Maybe we just don't see it.
If he's still alive, if he survived the war and came home, he'd probably be in his 80s now. As time marches on, veterans of World War II are dying. It won't be too much longer before they are all gone, and their voices lost. We'll know about the war from the books and films and all, but we'll have lost contact with the people who lived it.
Vietnam veterans are in their 50s and 60s. How can that be? They were all so young when they left, yet that war is ancient history to today's teenagers. There are oral history projects whose goal is to preserve the stories told in the voices of the men and women who lived them.
That got me thinking about all of us. We have all learned so much, lived so much, and yet there's really no way to pass on a lot of that knowledge. And no real way to pass on the stories we tell each other. I have the great fortune of having this blog, but I just wonder if there isn't something else we should be doing. Granted, you can be told about cancer, just as you can be told about war. But unless you live it, it won't mean much. There is knowledge, hard-earned knowledge, that each of us now possess.
Maybe we should think about some sort of oral history project. Or maybe we should just leave something behind for those close to us: letters, a diary, tapes or even videos. Just something to say, "I was here. I lived through this. And this is what I learned." I guess what I'm really talking about is some way to tell those who will follow in our footsteps, "You're not alone."