Successes

Rudyard KiplingIf

by Rudyard Kipling 1865–1936

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and all that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a man, my son! [have a lot of fun!]

Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865, to British parents in Mumbai, India, and spent the first six years of his life there. In 1871, he was taken with his three-year-old sister to live as a boarder in a foster home in England. His parents then returned to India. Rudyard was moved to a boarding school when he was about 13. Biographies say he was severely near-sighted, sickly, and frail; bullied and abused in both places; and that he longed to return to India, which he did when he started making a living as a journalist at age 17.  He wrote prolifically for almost the rest of his life, and died in 1936. In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Do you think he would ever have written “If,” “Captain’s Courageous,” “The Just-So Stories,” “The Jungle Book,” and so many of his other great works if his childhood had not been so hard?

Quick SpotLight on a party in Door County, Wisconsin, 2010. Click to play!

Jonathan, Siri, Kayleigh, Chelsea, Leah, Sophie

 

Joy riding! Bernie Baird-Browning drives the golf-cart for a video shoot at her Malibu cottage.

Joy riding! Bernie Baird-Browning drives the golf-cart for a video shoot at her Malibu cottage.

You step into another world at Small Wonders, the amazing educational toy store on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Rolling Hills, California. The place is a work of art that’s a world of toys, as unique and spirit-lifting as its owner and creator, Bernice Baird-Browning, who researches and discovers fun treasures from merchants all over the world.

Every inch of every shelf of her store is brimming with uniqueness and quality. Up near the ceiling, a colorful miniature train chugs along on a wooden railroad that somehow winds around or tunnels through every item in the store’s densely-stocked alcoves. Puppets and marionettes from faraway places smile at you as you pass by. You see boxes full of wooden trains and miniature construction sets from Scandinavia. And from Germany, kits for building colorful fire engines and taxis, or grand cathedrals and skyscrapers. Musical instruments and finely carved pull toys come from Poland, Italy, and Czechoslovakia. Delicate French dolls beg to be pampered and primped, but they’re tomboyish enough to be bathed in a washing machine!

Bernie married a doctor before the age of 20, and raised two brilliant kids who’ve launched successful careers of their own. So she’s also a grandmother-made-in-heaven! (Can you imagine dashing over the meadow and through the woods to such an enchanting place?)

And just as in a fairy-tale, Bernie met—or rather re-met—her current husband Ralph Browning at a high-school reunion in the late 1990s, and they’re living, traveling, and prospering happily ever after!

The source of Bernie’s passion for joy and fun and letting kids learn as they play might come from having started school in first grade. She longed for kindergarten ever since, so maybe skipping it was the twist of fate that led to the blessing Small Wonders is to the world. There, where everything has been so carefully searched, selected, and displayed by a mother, grandmother, businesswoman, and grownup kindergartener, you’ll find yourself warmly embraced in quality, charm, and just plain fun.

Fun, in fact, sums up Bernie Baird-Browning in a word.

 

Immortality Made Easy

Even though it was only two months away, no one thought Jack Kamen would live to see his 85th birthday. His son, Rick, found himself wondering, “Why would Dad want to stick around? He’s not having fun.”

Which gave him an idea. Maybe, somehow, that’s exactly what he could give his father for an early birthday present. Fun.

But what’s fun for elders? Rick figured gerontologists, caregivers, and loving children of aging parents must ask themselves that question a few times every day. It’s easy to create fun for kids. Give them toys and teach them games, and they have fun playing. Adults keep right on playing, albeit with toys and games that cost a lot more.

Jack Kamen, Father of Rick Kamen

Jack Kamen, Father of Rick Kamen

And elders? What do they do for fun?

Rick mulled over that puzzle for about a week. He watched elders, and thought about what it’s like to be 80 or more years old, searching for clues. And then one day, he saw a wise old soul smiling. What do you think that elder was doing?

Storytelling!

Rick got it. That’s how people who’ve lived a while and seen a lot have fun. They reflect on the beauty of their pasts, and they tell their stories.

It’s also how they help people who haven’t racked up as much life experience. Not by lecturing and teaching and instructing and demanding, but by anecdote and fable. By gentle example that lets the listener infer the moral of the story and do with it what they may.

Rick remembered that elders naturally tell stories, and that in the culture and custom of many societies, storytelling and storylistening happen naturally. Was there a venue for this in modern U.S. culture? Rick didn’t think so.

Rick Kamen, Author and Founder of Heirloom Stories

Rick Kamen, Author and Founder of Heirloom Stories

He did know his understanding of what fun is — for all people, at all ages — had changed forever. Fun, Rick realized, is that good feeling people get when they’re engaged in certain behaviors that are programmed into human beings for a very good reason: to help the entire species.

Fun, Rick proposes, might be what motivates us to do the things we do that help humanity.

Kids help humanity by learning, so play is fun.

Adults help humanity by being productive, as well as reproductive. So those behaviors are fun for them.

Elders help humanity when they distribute wisdom – especially to kids. So that’s fun for elders.

Not to mention that exquisite silver lining around the cloud of growing older, namely that even though we lose many abilities as we age, storytelling is one that improves as the years go by. And who doesn’t love to do things they’re good at?

So that’s how Rick gave his father the gift of fun. Storytelling. It was the perfect early birthday present.

Rick called his dad up, as he often did. But this time he steered the usual conversation about the usual stuff in a new direction. “I know you grew up in a world that can’t happen anymore. Why don’t you tell me some stories from those days? I’ll write them up for the grandkids.”

Without even saying, “Okay,” Jack launched right into a story.

The story was wonderful, Rick recalls, but even more wonderful for him and his family was seeing the the joyful impact storytelling had on their beloved patriarch’s mood. His voice and spirit sounded ten years younger. As he shared the highlights of his life, Jack was having fun again for the first time in a long time.

That first story led to another, and then another… and eventually a book called Heirloom Stories from the Harnessmaker’s Son.

Jack lived another seven years. Seven precious years that let him leave a legacy of written stories that will entertain and educate his descendants for centuries.  They would have carried his genes into the future, of course. But thanks to Rick’s gift of fun, Jack’s descendants will also carry with them Jack’s own thoughts and images of the life he led. That’s as close to immortality as you can get.

When he died in 2005, Jack didn’t know that, even more than the priceless stories, Rick cherished the additional years some genuine fun had given his father. The health benefits of storytelling were profound.

So Rick didn’t stop there. He gives the gift of fun to English-speaking elders anywhere in the world by interviewing them by phone, putting slices of their lives in writing, and preserving some Heirloom Stories® for their descendants.

Learn more about Heirloom Stories® at http://HeirloomStories.com or call Rick at (858) 273-1111.