Byron's Babbles

Who Tells Your Stories?

Grandma’s first Last Supper painting!

I sat down to wait a few minutes for my son to get home for a visit yesterday afternoon and flipped on the American Pickers. As usual, Mike Wolfe made a comment that resonated with me. I learn a lot of history watching that show and would love to go on a pick with him sometime. After picking a father-daughter team’s collection, Wolfe said he was inspired to tell his daughter the stories now, so she did not have to wait till later in life, or worse yet, not hear them at all. It is so important that we tell our stories to the younger generation. On the show, this was related to the stories behind things they had in the house or things that had been collected, but could relate to lots of things. I’m reminded of times when our family is together and someone will tell a story and we will say things like, “wow I did not know that,” or “that’s where that came from.” I’m sure you can think of stories like that.

For example, a couple of years ago, while visiting with family at a brunch the morning after a family wedding, we got to talking about the Last Supper painting on my uncle’s dining room wall. Family members did not know that back in the ‘70s my late grandmother had painted one for herself and then decided to paint one for all of her four children. I can remember looking up at that painting as we ate meals at my grandmother’s house. I always loved grandma’s and when she passed away my mom, uncles and aunt gave me grandma’s because I was the only grandchild that was out on my own at the time and had loved it so much. I always check out the paintings when visiting because all five are just a little different. And, my Uncle Earl’s which was the last one she painted is the best of all. It is evident that she was improving as a painter. But I still love the first that I have hanging in my dining room (featured picture of this post). Incidentally, I also have the second, which is the one she painted for my mom (she was the oldest). This is a story I want all my cousins and everyone related to my mom’s side of the family to hear and know. Those Last Supper paintings tell a story, but it is my responsibility as the family member that knows all the intimate details to tell the story.

The cool part about bringing up the Last Supper paintings at family gatherings is the fact that grandma signed and dated them all. So that always makes for a lengthy discussion of what was going on in the world, who was born at that time, et cetera, et cetera. The stories get told. The younger generations hear and learn. I’m reminded of the final song from Hamilton, which I still have not seen in person and want to so badly. The song is Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story. This is the finale song and is actually done by multiple characters. The song has a lot going on in it. Eliza Hamilton has the biggest part as she lived for 50 years after Hamilton’s death. Eliza wants to preserve his legacy and has lots of time, contrasted with Alexander running out of time. Eliza raised money for the Washington Monument, told the stories of American Revolutionary War veterans, and founded the first private orphanage, Graham Windham, in New York City.

If you think about it, the Hamilton broadway play has served an important part in telling the stories. So many more people know history that would be lost without the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda. He told the stories! How about you? Are you telling the stories? If not, who tells your stories?


Picking Imperfection

Posted in American Pickers, Imperfection, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 2, 2021

While doing some late night channel surfing last night, I came across one of my favorite shows: American Pickers. Can you imagine having Mike Wolfe, Danielle Colby, and Frank Fritz as your history teachers? Talk about making your learning relevant. Also, I love the things they say. On the episode I was watching, Mike Wolfe was looking at a drug store sign and after some imperfections had been pointed out he said, “Perfection is boring!” I love that comment. It is so true. In this sign’s case, the imperfections told the story of its history and gave it character. Kind of like the scar on my left leg where a German Shepard bit me and I had to get 40 stitches. Or, the scar on my right ankle where the lockers fell on me after wrestling practice in the eighth grade. As you can imagine, both of those events have stories.

So let’s think about this on a personal level. No one is perfect. Right? I’m pretty sure that’s right. So why do we expect it. We’d be pretty boring if we were. Can you imagine how much better our workplaces, homes, relationships and lives would be if we gave ourselves permission to let go of this impossible ideal of perfection? If you think about it, we are directly created by our struggle. At the level of our own motivation, we are driven by our imperfect knowledge to understand and engage in the world around us. Our curiosity is spurred by our own imperfect comprehension.

Imperfection translates into depth of character. This is true no matter what we are talking about. When you look at our John Deere Gator you would see many imperfections. I see dozens of stories from my son growing up driving, dinging, and wrecking that Gator. And…I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I still say Mike Wolfe is going to pull in someday and offer me $50,000 for it because it has patina all the stories it has. There’s my crazy, it’s not for sale number, Mike! So,we can either try to be the perfect we see in others, or choose to be a little messy and create our own rules and go accomplish big things. Let’s embrace our imperfections and not be boring.