Between my catholic school education (complete with nuns) and spending quality time in the American South, I have learned that life is so much easier if you are polite, thankful, and try your darnedest to be a good sport.
Being polite means listening to hear what others have to say rather than to plan your response, asking for something with a smile and a please, receiving something with a smile and a thank you, disagreeing with someone without being disagreeable, and realizing that you don’t have to raise your voice or your blood pressure to get your point across.
Being thankful means appreciating what you have, not judging your good fortune based against others’ good fortune, taking joy in happy surprises that come your way, expressing gratitude for recognition that you receive with a simple thank you and not feeling the need to qualify it, demean it, or complain when others receive recognition.
|Saying Thanks is Simple and Universal|
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By being prepared and being respectful of those who assist me, I have always had excellent results with my research at libraries, archives, historical societies, funeral homes, cemeteries, and genealogy meetings and seminars. For the most part (whether online or offline) the genealogy community is welcoming and helpful. But everyone wants to be asked politely, thanked for their help, and acknowledged for their assistance. If someone provides genealogy services for a fee or cost, they should be treated with the same respect and courtesy that we treat our dentist, cashier, doctor, food server, teacher, lawyer, plumber, or accountant rather than harangued for charging a fee for services (it is not about the title, the degree, or the payment - it is about treating all others with respect).
By taking delight in my genealogy finds, offering to share my skills, and thanking people who have helped me, I express an attitude of gratitude. Sometimes we forget that the presentation, book, position, or award does not appear overnight (there are no genealogy fairies toiling away at night while we sleep). In order to give a presentation, that genealogist had to come up with a lecture topic and put together her presentation. In order to be the featured speaker at a conference, that genealogist had to respond to a call for papers and put together his presentation. In order to be the president or chair of an organization, that genealogist had to put in hours of volunteer time and work her way up the ladder. In order to be published either in a magazine or journal or publish a book, that genealogist had to sell his concept and then follow through with the entire writing, editing and rewriting process.
Oftentimes the genealogy world seems a bit like a school playground. The good news is that there is plenty of room on the playground for any genealogist who wants to join in, play nicely with others, and have some fun.
|Let's All Play Together and Cheer Each Other On|
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The bad news is that just like on every other playground, sometimes we won’t get picked for the team, or we might not win, or perhaps we don’t want to play the game of the day. And just like on the school playground – we are going to have to learn to get along, be kind, and encourage everyone to take a turn. Let’s not be those mean kids (the bullies on the playground) that none of us liked in school. Let’s be good sports (no matter how hard that is sometimes). I was reminded of this because of two recent events.
Many of us watched the Olympics, which dominated the news cycle in February. It is always interesting to watch the journey these athletes take – they have a real skill in a particular sport that only a few other athletes in the world can attain. Whether individually or as part of a team they do their best on a given day and hope to win. On that particular day talent, luck, persistence, and sometimes a judge’s subjective determination or the clock will be the deciding factor on whether they win, place or simply get to compete on the Olympic level. Watching the medal ceremony for women’s hockey I was a bit saddened and disappointed – I know that team USA played their hearts out and they wanted to win, but it was not their gold moment. Why? Because team Canada played just as hard and pulled it out at the end with talent, sheer determination and luck. The majority of the team USA members accepted their silver medals with sad faces, tears and frowns – it was almost as if having not won gold, silver just did not matter. The few team USA members who smiled and had kind words in response to the medal presenter made me especially proud. Why? Because no matter how hard that moment was for them, those women exhibited good sportsmanship and were excellent role models for young athletes. It’s hard but sometimes, in sports and in everyday life, you have to suck it up and show good sportsmanship.
Last week Family Tree Magazine published an article entitled “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow” which appeared online and is in their March/April 2014 print edition. I happened to see a link to the article Tuesday morning on Google+ and clicked through to see if I could find some new people to follow on the various social media platforms. The writer listed 40 feeds she considered worth following from blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. As I read through the list I made a note of two new-to-me blogs, reminded myself that I should visit Facebook more than once a month, wondered what my Pinterest password was so I could check out her picks, and then was totally surprised (thrilled, excited and proud – the very definition of "doing the happy dance") to see my YouTube Channel listed as one to check out. No false modesty here - I put time and effort into my videos and it was so very nice to have Lisa Louise Cooke acknowledge it and direct other genealogists to check out my channel.
|We Will Have Many Turns to Shine|
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Fast forward 90 minutes and the article, list and various posts on social media went viral in the genealogy community with posts both from those who received and those who did not receive a mention – some sharing the news, others wondering why their favorite social media genealogist was not included, others making additions to the list or suggesting in their opinion better choices, some writing separate posts about whether having these types of lists is a good or bad thing for the genealogy community. Wow, it didn't take long to smack that hornet’s nest – and the list was not even one of those that we often see that claims to be “the best, the top choices, the rock stars, the gurus, or the gold, silver & bronze medalists” – it was simply 40 to check out and perhaps follow. Now I might be biased because this time I was named to the list, but I know that in the past I have congratulated those who have been named to any of these types of lists, especially those who appear for the first time, and I am genuinely happy for them.
So while there were many responses to the article and the list (and in the past there have been many responses to many such lists) might I suggest that the polite, thankful and good sportsmanlike response is simply “thank you so much” if you were named to the list and “good for you” or “congratulations you must be so thrilled” if you see the name of a fellow genealogist. Let’s all play nice, have an attitude of gratitude, and just be happy for others when get their moment.
|Good on You!|
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Thanks for reading - Tessa Keough