Here is where I need to make a confession. While I strive to be an optimist, it doesn’t come naturally to me, and so when ‘interesting times’ happen I often wake up an optimist and go to bed a pessimist. But something happened this week that restored my faith in the future. I went to the largest genealogy conference in the world, RootsTech. It wasn’t a genealogy class that restored my faith in the future, though all of the classes were wonderful. It was what I saw between class sessions, during African Heritage Day, and Family History Discovery Day that gave me hope that the future may not be as dark as it seems.
Each day of the conference people stopped to help each other. In a world where ‘common decency” has become uncommon, people were genuinely kind to others. When a child was lost, people stopped to search or to pray that the child would be found. Those prayers came from people from different religious backgrounds, different genders, and different skin colors. And when that child was found, the chorus of applause was equally diverse.
African Heritage Day started with perhaps one of the most moving and inspiring speeches ever given at a genealogy conference by actor LeVar Burton. There were several thousand pairs of eyes in attendance, and not a single one was dry. White, Black, Asian, or Middle Eastern, it didn’t matter. If Mr. Burton’s speech didn’t move you, you should schedule an appointment with a cardiologist as soon as possible, because something is clearly wrong with your heart.
Later that day there were African drummers, Irish step dancers, and a South American choir and dance ensemble La Paz de Naciones. I saw people of all races tapping their feet to the beat of those African drummers, clapping along with the breakneck fiddling that accompanied the Irish dancers, and moving to the music of La Paz de Naciones. In short, for a time there were no boundaries, there were no artificially constructed walls between races. Though the outfits of the performers were colorful, color didn’t matter. And for a glorious hour, we were all just humans. No black, brown, or white. Just humans.
On Saturday, during Family History Discovery Day, I saw hundreds of families with their children come to learn more about their ancestors. They learned about where and how their ancestors lived. They recorded their own stories and took family photos. They weren’t doing these things because there was a test in two weeks like in history classes at school. They came to build a connection to the past, to their past. To paraphrase a Biblical passage, they came to have ‘their hearts turned’ to their ancestors. And they were all smiles.
In a world that seems increasingly polarized by race, gender, politics, and religion what I saw made me realize that cooperation is not only possible, but seems to be in our nature, a part of our DNA. Seeing all of those young people start to have an interest in their ancestors gave me hope that maybe if they’ll learn from those ancestors’ mistakes and successes that maybe they can build a far more beautiful tomorrow than we can yet imagine. Perhaps if there is one great hope for the future, it may be to know more about the past.
 Actually, British Parliamentarian, Sir Austen Chamberlain appears to be the source of the quote. (see quoteinvestigator.com/2015/12/18/live/ accessed on 2/13/17)