Here at Pictures and Stories, being self-employed, we have no paid vacations, 401K, corporate health insurance, or stocked lunchroom. I have to buy my own diet Dr. Pepper. (Tom, who is superior to me in health and self-discipline, drinks water).
But our job is not without its perks. The best bennie we could ask for is to be inspired on a daily basis by your life stories. We have learned so much that has blessed our lives.
So here are a few lessons we've learned from some of our clients and their life stories. (We'll continue to share more from time to time.)
1. You're never too old to fall head over heels in love. One client (who wishes to remain anonymous but I have to say she's one of my very favorite clients ever) wrote her personal history at age 89. As we were going to print, she announced to us that she was about to be married -- for the fourth time. (She had lost three previous husbands -- all beloved -- to war or terminal illness). "I feel like a teenager," she gushed. And it's not just her, either. We've seen a number of our clients fall in love in their eighties and beyond, the sheer force of it undiminished by time.
2. You will never be less busy than you are now. At least, not if you are as lucky as Maggie Hicken, whose history we did when she was 104. While we were working on her book, Maggie admitted that she had a lot of photos she needed to go through and organize, but she was just too busy to get around to it. (She just recently passed away at age 107, in the midst of planning a party.)
3. The key to success is setting goals. In looking back at the lives of many of our clients who have been successful--in business, in community service, in family life--we have noticed that they all have something in common. Early in their lives, each had a vision, a goal of some sort, and worked diligently toward that vision. The nature of what we want when we are young often changes, and changes often. But the key to success seems to be to keep moving toward something we feel is important. Philanthropist and arts champion Beverley Taylor Sorenson said it simply: "Set up a plan for your life and work towards it."
4. Keep a good sense of humor. Our clients often come to feel like family to us. Arthur and Lila Mae Debenham, with whom we worked for three years on their book, Tender Mercies, still call us from time to time just to tell us a good joke. Or a bad one, which is just as good. Our client Louis Moore says, "Be able to laugh at yourself. There are times when you will need to be laughed at."
5. Our challenges make us who we are. Nobody comes out of life unscathed. Every single person has a story of adversity, of hardship, of the complete crap which life sometimes hands us. And those whose stories are the most compelling are those who have the courage to talk about their hard times, and more importantly how they dealt with them. What did you learn? How did you grow? How did it change you as a person? The answers to these questions have taught us the most about how to be human.