One of my goals this year was to be a better listener. It’s not always easy, yet I learn so much just by keeping quiet. I am fascinated by people’s lives and their paths to the lives they create. It is the “average Joe” – six-pack optional – who always seems to have the most interesting story, not the celebrity du jour on the cover of the gossip rags.
Today, the stories of real people who we can all learn from, people not unlike the ones who may live next door or down the street: Families and young children, struggling to survive, taking life-threatening jobs to keep food in their stomach. Grandparents, opening up about the horrors of war, and the love that can grow out of misery. And reminders about just how bad things can get – and how lucky we are – from those who lived through the Great Depression. All are lessons that never grow old, and that we could miss if we don’t stop to listen.
I want to warn you the images and the details of this next story are disturbing. They are heartbreaking. And they are important. The images from Shehzad Noorani tell the tale of the “children of the dust” in Bangladesh. Their reality is documented in the book “What Matters.” Edited by David Elliott Cohen, the collection of photo essays explores environmental, economic and other issues around the world. The photos of the children of the dust will show you what child labor is truly like…and why trying to rid the world of it altogether may not be the answer.
I have always been drawn to stories of World War II, specifically, those of Holocaust survivors. I am in awe of the strength, courage and in so many cases, the forgiveness that the Greatest Generation – both here and abroad – continues to show, decades later. The lessons for us are many, but one man’s final words from his own father may be some of the best and most difficult advice yet: Don’t carry a grudge in your heart and tolerate everybody.
It is amazing how such incomparable beauty can come of such dark times, but the inspirational stories of humanity from every war are many. There are also countless stories of love born out of tragedy. It was Herman Rosenblat’s father who offered those wise words more than half a century ago. The story of Herman and his wife, Roma, is one of loss, sadness, and, ultimately, of a love and a connection that was meant to be; a couple united by the worst of circumstances. Mr and Mrs Rosenblat recently celebrated their 50th anniversary.
My grandfather was the ultimate packrat. After he passed, my mother, aunt and uncle were cleaning out the basement; they found decades-old cardboard TV boxes, magazines, even coupons. He and my grandmother were smart with their money yet so generous with all of us. Coupons were always a big deal with my Grampa – and still are with my Mom. I admit, I, too LOVE a good bargain – with or without a coupon. But for my Mimi and Grampa, the reasons were different: they grew up in the shadow of the Great Depression. They lived through WWII and rationing. They knew what it was like to truly worry. When I was pregnant, my Mimi told me how she had one maternity dress when she was pregnant with my aunt – one dress. But she probably never complained. She’s an amazing lady, one I love to listen to.
As we hear so many cries of a “second Great Depression”, the lessons of the first one are once again en vogue…lessons we should probably all pay a bit more attention to in the boom times.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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