Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you. 1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)
For several months, my office has worked with the staff of a television show called The Generations Project. Produced by a public television station, the genealogy show helps people track down their family stories. A young man named John wrote that though they shared the same name, he knew very little about his great grandfather. The Generations Project contacted us because John’s great grandfather lived in our county. We were given very little information to start, but enjoyed tracking young John’s family tree. We found marriage, census and death records, located the property his great grandfather had owned, learned about the trials and tribulations of a Florida farmer in the early half of the twentieth century, uncovered school attendance records of the children and visited the Yellow Fever Cemetery in Palmetto where the great-grandfather’s fifteen month old baby was buried in 1905. Once we had done all our research, it was time to share it with John and the show’s viewers. John and a film crew arrived at one of our historical parks early this morning to begin filming. Throughout the day, clues to his great-grandfather’s life were gradually revealed to John as he visited our historical park, the Manatee County Agricultural Museum, and the Manatee County Historical Records Library. He was able to pick up and try farm tools and cultivators like those his great grandfather might have used. He sat in a Model T Ford truck to learn about truck farming, large scale production of cash crops such as peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage and celery. At the Historical Records Library, we showed him our records and his great grandfather’s life unfolded through maps, land transactions, deeds, mortgages, crop liens and eventually foreclosure. Even though the filming got tedious in parts when we had to repeat the same scenes over and over to get different angles and shots, the film crew was fun to work with, and for the most part, I had a great time. Something did take me aback, however. For me, the story of John’s family had become a series of facts that I wanted to relate to him through the documents and artifacts. I forgot that to John, it was a personal story. When I told him about the loss of his great-grandfather’s land because he could not pay off his mortgage, John was disappointed. He thought about how sad it would have been to lose your life’s work. He was shocked to learn of his grandfather’s older brother who died as a baby and became emotional when he thought about his own little girl so close to that age. John’s reactions made me think how easily I can recite the events of Jesus’ time on this earth, but how often I forget about the personal impact He made on my life. His life, death and resurrection were more than points on a time line. We need to know more than the details of His life, but take what He did for us to heart.