We’re only a few days away from Father’s Day 2020, so here’s a question for you: How would you describe your father?
In this post I’m going to explain two ways to describe someone, but one way is over-the-top better than the other. Let’s see if you agree!
When I think of my dad, who is no longer living, I can describe him with some wonderful words: resourceful, intelligent, strict, honorable, and supportive, to name a few.
These are great words but there’s a saying in writing circles that we family historians would do well to follow: “Show. Don’t tell.” And that can apply to a description of anyone in your family, not just fathers.
So let me show you what I mean by “Show. Don’t Tell,” when it comes to describing a father, or anyone else, in your family.
Instead Of “Resourceful…”
Instead of me saying my dad was resourceful…why not tell the story about how, when he was one of six kids in a poor farming family, he figured out how to earn extra money by capturing raccoons and skunks to sell for pelts.
One day on the way to school he spied a skunk along the side of the road so he asked the bus driver to stop the bus, which he did. My dad found a stick and knocked the skunk senseless before he could spray.
Then my dad got back on the bus with his catch and held the skunk by the tail out the window. Unfortunately, the skunk revived and you probably know what happened next. I’m sure my dad wasn’t very popular with the rest of the kids and the bus driver that day!
Doesn’t that give you a better picture of my dad than just saying he was resourceful?
Now maybe in that case what he did wasn’t so “smart” but I think he matured in the “smarts” department because one of the words I used above to describe him was “intelligent.” Intelligent is a great word, but again, that’s telling you, not showing you. So now let me SHOW you that he was intelligent by telling you a story.
Instead Of “Intelligent…”
My father never had any formal training in architecture or building, but when he saw a need for a building in El Salvador where we lived, he learned on his own how to draw plans and went on to plan and build a complex building.
He was so good at it that he was asked to go to Guatemala where he built a number of structures, including a radio station. He built them so well that they endured a major earthquake with hardly a scratch when other buildings had major damage.
If, instead, I had just said, “He was intelligent,” you’d see the word “intelligent” in your head, but when I told you this story, you see him in your mind drawing plans and building great buildings, and the fact that his buildings withstood an earthquake gives you a measuring stick for his intelligence.
So don’t just tell with words. Whenever possible, show with a story!
And what better time than right now, the week leading up to Father’s Day 2020 to start gathering the wonderful stories of the fathers you know and love in your life?
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