When we ask our elders to tell us their stories, and place emphasis on what they ‘have done’, does this devalue what they ‘do now’ and ‘will do’?
There has been significant discussion on the personal historian community about this issue and I hoped to offer my own thoughts.
If conversations with our loved ones were limited to their pasts, then I would agree that their presents and futures are being devalued. In my own experience though it is the present and future that usually occupy the vast bulk of the airtime, and only when I go out of my way to talk about the past.
The present is what is most obvious and most clear. The near past and near future are also very relevant because they are a guide to each other. But just as it is uncommon to talk to a teenager about what they will do when they have retired 50 years hence, talking to our elders about what they did when they were children is also very distanced from our thinking.
The further we move along the timeline from now, whether that be past or future, the less likely they are to come up in conversation unless we direct the conversation there ourselves.
To direct our gaze to any place on our timeline is worthwhile, but none should be at the expense of the others. The danger of focussing too much on the distant past as the expense of the present and near future would be negligible for most.