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The Academy Colloquium, A Blog of Riverbend Academy “Archive (v.)”

The Academy Colloquium
A Blog of Riverbend Academy


“Archive (v.)”
by Stephen Collins

         
Happy Spring, friends.
            
I was recently blessed to join our current 8th grade class on their trip to Washington, D.C. I was impressed with much: the apples in the lobby; the weather; the colossal monuments and titanic buildings; the students’ remarkable behavior; the excitement of unfamiliar public transit; the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; The Library of Congress and its grand proclamation that reading is good; the enduring narrative of equality under law and blind justice; the Batmobile I fell in love with almost thirty years ago; and so much more (including a glimpse at President Trump’s profile as he rode up Independence Avenue in the back of the fourth Beast in the caravan). Don’t make the trip for the apples, but if you have not been it would be worth your efforts to go for pretty well everything else. The stuff listed above was fantastic, but I might have been most surprised at the joys of visiting the National Archives.
        
Had our group not been graced with one of the best story tellers I’ve ever met, the experience could have been less magical, but possibly not much so. Our docent, Cathy, was old enough to have an excuse for any lack of energy, but she had no need for one. She spoke passionately and informedly about our nation’s founding documents, humbly noting in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution the humanity of edits and smudges. As she spoke, all looking and listening witnessed a quiet exhalation from these powerfully persevering founding documents. After this anticipated highlight we beheld an original copy (13th-century) of the Magna Carta; pictures of families who suffered and/or thrived enough during WW2; we read letters to famous presidents; and we let our jaws hang at the news that the most asked for archive in the place is a picture of Elvis Presley (a 20th century music legend and fan of sandwiches, etc.) when his head was shaved upon enlisting in the armed forces. (Not-so-ironically, I guess, less than a minute after our group was informed of the fact, a random woman interrupted our tour to ask directions for securing a copy of that picture).
   
[Keep reading, please]
    
Just before we departed the Archives, we heard the truly moving story of a German-born woman whose U-Boat-captain father was killed in battle shortly after her birth. Sadly, and understandably, the woman had always wondered, for decades, if her father received news of the pregnancy or birth. The woman, already quite well beyond most states’ drinking age, visited our National Archives and learned of the unimaginably vast record of naval logs and records of even other nations’ armed forces communications and dared to ask if it was possible that the Archives could find any record of the good news given to her father before his death. “Congratulations on the birth of your daughter” was the message transmitted soon before her father’s U-Boat was destroyed, killing him. Nevertheless sad, the woman rejoiced at the question answered and the resultant peace of knowing that her father was not in this life wholly ignorant of her existence.  
     
Cathy’s final word to us was one of encouragement and challenge: archive! Our family and friends all have stories that directly or indirectly relate to us or to people and places that we care about. Not to mention, loving others includes caring about who they are and why, regardless of our own self-interested gain. Clearly, we do not need to hoard and become bizarrely fixated on what is past, but we certainly should treasure the stories and documents and history that have been ingredients in the creation and development of our selves. The eighth graders (and adults) were exhorted to speak with parents and grandparents to hear about what they’ve seen and what their formative memories are. The Bible is replete with examples of the wisdom gained from one generation’s accounts being passed down to those following. Instead of passively allowing for every Saturday morning or whatever day inordinately spent playing video games or scrolling social media for whatever it will be that momentarily presents as worthy of attention, may we all pursue and encourage our children to converse with us, with their grandparents, or even with the old woman next door who looks like she’s seen a thing or fifty-two. Consider your own stories, and help your children to know you weren’t born as old and wise as you are now. Over cereal or waffles or both you can begin with something like, “Hey, sweet child of mine, I want to tell you a story. It’s a true story. And it has something to do with why I want to be a good daddy/mommy for you. I have many such stories, but I want to share this one with you today. Do you want to hear it?” 
    
We won’t have physical records of all our stories, and we may lose those cherished newspaper clippings or high school photos, but if we intentionally seek to remember and to tell our stories to our children and grandchildren, they will be blessed for the hearing. May we all cherish the lives the Lord has given us to witness His unsearchably complex and humblingly simple love, and may we be an active part of Psalm 145’s “generation” commending to the next the wondrous works of the Lord.