To shake a man’s hand is a simple gesture, often of introduction or more commonly, a formal way to say hello or goodbye. It’s something I do almost daily in my life. Sometimes, however, the opportunity to shake a person’s hand leads to an appreciation of so much more. 

Last Thursday, after a celebration of his 102nd birthday, I had the opportunity to shake the hand of longtime Rotarian and attorney, Eldon Sloan. With that simple gesture, came an appreciation of both the time and of the events which he has witnessed first hand.
I’ve always had a tremendous appreciation for history and the events that define our country. The last 102 years have encompassed much of what we know as the American Century - The World Wars, Great Depression, Industrial Revolution and the beginning of the Information Age. He was born three years before the Titanic sank, before World War I, when William Howard Taft was President. He went to college during the Roaring Twenties and begin his law career in the midst of the Great Depression. He has lived his live through events I only know by a photograph or a headline.
As time marches on, the stories and the history of what people can tell us of this time will slip away. I’ve always taken the time to listen to the stories told by those much older than myself. The richness of the words spoken and the voices are far more important and memorable than words printed in a history book years later. I often asked my grandparents about their childhood and their lives. What they told me taught me much about who they became years later.
Although my thirty-nine years are short in comparison to a centenarian, I believe that each day that I have lived my life, I have been rewarded with tremendous blessings and I’ve tried to take what I’ve learned from one day and apply to the next. I hope that one day, many years from now, I’ll have a young person come up and ask about life in the late Twentieth Century and I’ll be able to tell them of my experiences of a hundred years ago.

Photo by Ann Palmer