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Dear Reader,

View this page as a place where you and I can have a conversation on subjects that are meaningful to both of us. On a regular basis I plan to post a topic or question on my mind which I encourage you to respond to (see below).

On this same page you will also find some of the responses that have been sent in by those who have viewed this web site. Please feel free to submit your own questions and thoughts which I might comment on and share with other viewers. I truly look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Archive for March, 2009

WRITER PROMPT: TELL ME WHEN YOU WERE BRAVE

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Each of us is brave in a different way.
For example, there is the person who saves another person’s life, such as when someone falls off the subway platform and the other person rescues him seconds before the train arrives.

Then there is the person who finds the courage to leave his or her country in order to go to another land and start a new life. That person is very brave, too, because starting a new life in a strange land and with a different language is very, very difficult.

Then there’s the person who is very shy, but who leaves the house in the morning to try to find a job and make a living.

There is also the mother or father who works very long hours at a hard job in order to earn money to help support the family. That person is very brave, too.

So tell me about your own life and the time when you were brave. What was the brave deed or act you did? How did you feel – frightened or confident? Was it hard for you to be brave?
Or, if you wish, write about someone you know who has done a brave deed. Tell me who that person is and what he or she did.

WRITER PROMPT: Asking People for Their Life Stories

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

As we do our best to come through these hard economic times it would do us well to ask our elders how they survived difficult times in their own lives. Not only can the information we get from them help us right now, but we can also learn that people can indeed survive terrible periods in life, that somehow they find the strength to muster through as best as they can and even learn how strong and resilient they can be in handling all the stresses of life.

I’d like to suggest that you find an older person to interview about their life — maybe it was a great grandparent who lived through the Great Depression; maybe it is someone who survived a terrible war; maybe it’s someone who overcame a great illness or loss. Ask them to speak about their lives to you, how they got through their ordeal, and what they learned from it. If you have a child, bring the child with you to the interview so that he or she can also learn from the conversation; it is important that children hear that while each of us may go through tough times in life, we can also overcome these hard times, that nothing bad lasts forever as long as we keep hope alive in us and show as much courage as possible.

Many years ago I wrote a family oral history guide called ”How to Tape Instant Oral Biographies” and I helped set up Grandparent Day programs in schools where children would invite older neighbors or relatives to school and record the key stories in their lives. The children always came away glowing with the wonderful stories they heard, and the older people felt so happy to share their lives. In the book I wrote that everyone has a story to tell — if only someone would ask, if only someone would listen, and that there is an African saying that when an elder dies a whole library is destroyed because of all the stories that are lost from that person’s lives.

In interviewing my own mother about the Depression, I learned that as tough as things were during that period the family pulled together and found ways to enjoy life. Every Saturday evening, for example, the family would gather together and perform vaudeville skits for one another and that my grandmother and grandfather would dress in each other’s clothes and sing for the children. My mother would say, ”We didn’t have any money, but we had a wonderful time together and were happy.”

To help you interview an elder, you can go to the page on this web site — http://www.billztreasurechest.com/fun_family.html –where you’ll find excerpts from my oral history book with interview questions to help you get started in having a conversation with others about their lives. (It’s on the Fun Activities for Family page.)

I hope you’ll try this out, and if it works well for you, please consider sharing some of the stories you learn by writing to us.
Have fun!

WRITER PROMPT: What Are Your Hopes for Spring?

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Yes, spring is here. You can almost sense it, something is in the air.
For me spring always has brought a sense of hope. Maybe it’s because I would begin to plant seeds in cheese boxes on my sunny window sill in the tenement I lived growing up in Brooklyn. I loved looking at the seed packets, particularly the ones with marigolds and morning glory flowers on the covers. As I prepared the soil and began dropping seeds in the holes I had made, I had visions of the orange-golden marigolds blooming and the blue-purple morning glories growing along the fire escape on which I’d place the cheese boxes once it got warmer.
Nowadays, living near a park, I look longingly for signs of the early yellow crocuses and daffodills that will start emerging from the ground. I search desperately for the emerging leaf buds on the tree branches.
I know that winter is now almost over and everything will be better in the world, and I can begin once more to dream of all the good things that the warmer, sunnier weather will bring.
What about you? What hopes does Spring bring to you?
Please share with us.

WRITERS PROMPT: Living as a Shut-in in Your Room

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

In Japan there is a group of people known as ”hikikomori” who are young and mostly male who stay in their rooms and who have voluntarily retreated from society. I read the other day that there may be as many as one million of such people, from teenagers to those in their 40s who keep themselves in their rooms for years on end.
It is unclear to me why this is happening — perhaps one reason is because of the terrible economic difficulties Japan is now experiencing which makes people feel very insecure. For example, there is no longer job security which used to be guaranteed. It seems to be getting harder to find work, and people may just lose confidence in their abilities to work and make a contribution to society. I don’t know for sure.
Can you put yourself in the place of a hikikomori who is shuttered in his room all day? What is causing him to be this way? What fears must be lurking in his mind to make him stay in his room? What can be done to help that person leave the room and get on with his life?
Any thoughts on this? Can you write from the point of view of a hikikomori?