Thomas Harris released “Hannibal Rising,” the fourth installment in the Hannibal Lector series; Nigel Cox, a New Zealand novelist died on June 28; Orhan Pamuk received the Nobel Prize in Literature, the spacecraft called “New Horizons” left the solar system in January, Roger Cornberg received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, our lackluster leader called for a federal ban on marriages deemed “unworthy” while in the Czech Republic, the Bill on Civil Unions went into effect, Lula Mae Hardaway passed away in May as did Masumi Okada, and finally, J.K. Rowling revealed two characters would die in the seventh installment of her “Harry Potter” series.
What do all of these things have to do with me, I know you’re asking yourself. That very thought is at the center of this column because I was asking myself these same questions last year. The events that I have listed are things that have happened in the course of this year and most have received only a back-page notice in some paper. For the most part, these things don’t impact our daily lives unless you might be related to Roger Cornberg, Orhan Pamuk or Masumi Okada.
It isn’t until an event like the passing of Miss Lula Mae Hardaway impacts us directly that we take an active role in history. Who is Miss Hardaway? She was connected to someone we all have at least heard of but to the casual passer-by, she was nobody. She was a person who blended into our collective woodwork much like many of the people we interact with on a daily basis here at school.
We walk by so many people on a regular day that it’s difficult to take them all in. Faces of handsome guys, pretty girls, exotic people with different dress or manner of speech, and teachers we may/may not have had in class bombard us almost every day of our scholastic lives and it truly is impossible to know them all. What about your roommate, your adviser, the girl sitting next to you in class or the guy you see sitting on the bench outside of Humanities every day? What stories do they have to tell you; should you stop and talk to them?
Did you ever think that every person that you see is a walking library of experiences and knowledge that you could just “check out” if you took an extra moment out of your day to do so? Imagine the stories Nigel Cox could tell you if you had the chance to chat with him? Think of the stories that Dr. Neil Graves could tell you if you stopped in on a particularly slow afternoon and just asked him about them.
Every person reads like the list at the beginning of this column. Every person that we encounter on a daily basis has some sort of history, some event that shaped them into the person they are and almost every person would be willing to share with you if you showed a genuine interest. Every person walking around on campus is a walking library filled to the brim with interesting facts and knowledge that you could access if you just wanted to take a chance.
It is my belief that this sort of connection is the very thing missing in the “new millennium” that we find ourselves in. In a fast-paced world of instant messaging, text messaging, e-mail, and MySpace where there are only snippets of information being exchanged, somehow, the humanity behind it all is lost.
What stories, what experiences, what history was lost when the people I mentioned earlier passed from this world? What history will be lost when your parents, grandparents and other loved ones or friends pass from the same? I wonder what sort of stories Miss Lula Mae Hardaway passed onto her son before it was her time to go and how happy she made him by doing so.
Every person is a person worth knowing, regardless of the superficial. I urge you to take advantage of every opportunity you may be presented with to get to know someone a little better, including family members, close family friends and people you may see everyday. Take a moment to videotape your grandfather telling that “old war story” or make a video diary of your grandmother making all of your favorite dishes, your aunt telling that embarrassing story about you. All of these things will seem like jewels in a precious crown when these people you care for are no longer able to tell these stories in person.
Do what you can to preserve the history around you because, like so many fine things, once they’re gone, they cannot be retrieved. I’m sure that Lula Mae Hardaway’s son would agree wholeheartedly.