Monday, November 10, 2008

Greetings and Salutations

We recently watched the much acclaimed mini-series John Adams based on the book of the same name by bestselling and Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough. This is not a pitch for either the book or the mini-series though both are excellent and certainly worth reading or watching respectively. Among the bonus features included with the 7-part series is a short piece narrated and starring David McCullough about how he conceived the idea to write books in the first place and "John Adams" in particular. During the hour long piece he talks about becoming a writer and how much he loves his work and shows the audience his typewriter and writing "shed" and snippets from his decade long stint as host of PBS's American Experience. He has led a fascinating life and appears wholly uncorrupted by his fame and subsequent wealth.

He also opens a window into his personal life with interviews from his wife and children. During their interview his daughters shared an anecdote that occurred around the time McCullough began to be really famous. They were leaving for a trip and before walking through the airport McCullough told his daughters to take note of all the people who recognized him and said hello. His daughters laughingly report that while it was true nearly everyone they passed in the airport did acknowledge their father the reason wasn't because he was famous, but because he greeted them first. In response to this revelation David McCullough tells the viewing audience he believes it is important to acknowledge people as you pass them or you run the risk of having life pass you by altogether. And then, to prove that these are words he lives by, the camera follows him as he walks across the Brooklyn Bridge, along the Battery, down Pennsylvania Avenue and everywhere else he goes saying hello and/or introducing himself to everyone he sees.

David McCullough

David McCullough's words got me to thinking about one of the things I love about living in South America: the very friendly people we have encountered. Perfect strangers say hello or good morning to each other regularly. I grew up in a small town in a small state where everyone was your friend or brother or auntie even without a formal introduction. After living on the east coast of the US for several years, my childhood tendency of never meeting a stranger was decidedly curbed. But, after a few short weeks in Peru and now more than two years later living south of the border I am back in the habit. I have to say the world is a lot brighter when you aren't surrounded by strangers and some habits were definitely not meant to be broken.


dana said...

We loved the DVD series. I thought Paul Giamatti and Laura Liney were amazing. And I'm love with the actor that plays Thomas Jefferson (don't tell Casey. Okay, he already knows).

Anonymous said...

I agree!!! Makes for a more interesting life in that it opens doors to new experiences and stories that may never have been heard otherwise.

Christie said...

Brilliant. Love everything in this. Well said.

diane said...

This must be why I love blog comments so much.
How wonderful to live in such a friendly place.

The Songer said...

So I actually read Truman ... by the same author... I was on my way to Honolulu from Kansas/ Missouri and I could not for the life of me sleep and my sister just happen to have it on her! She got it free while we were there and by the time we landed, I knew way more than I wanted to about Harry S Truman!

Annie said...

So true. When I went to Guatemala last year, one of my favorite things was the tradition of greeting everyone you see. (I don't remember it but my parents said I REALLY loved it when we lived in Peru. I was a friendly toddler.)

I have only caught snippets of the series. WE'll have to get it and watch the whole thing.

Jake said...

This was a great post. I saw a talk McCullough gave at BYU and was so impressed (as if his books weren't enough).

terahreu said...

You've finally inspired me to open the John Adams book that has been sitting on my bookshelf for over 3 years!

I am also happy to get an insight to life in South America. My husband and I have always wanted to live in that part of the world. It is not the same as visiting. Interesting stuff.


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