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Holy Everything: Do not be stingy with your curiosity

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"Learning about history is a pathway to learning about ourselves. Through studying the past, we can better understand the present. To overlook history is to miss out on an amazing warehouse of knowledge and experience."

Every history teacher I've ever had has given some version of that speech on the first day of the semester, but it never really sunk in until the last few months. If only there was a way to travel back in time and gain an appreciation for history sooner. Alas, I suppose there is no better time than now.

Local county museums and historical societies have become a favorite pastime this summer. Every time I leave one, I find myself asking, "Why haven't I been paying attention to history for the last 33 years?"

In all fairness to myself, I do know some history … such as the plot and character list of nearly every episode of "Full House" and "Saved by the Bell" ever recorded.

As impressive as that is(n't), now I need to make up for lost time by diving into actual state and world history. Thankfully, there is no shortage of information available.

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Within our local communities are valuable repositories of learning and history in the form of city and county museums, as well as historical societies. They're all over the place.

Local historical societies aren't always the flashiest of institutions. They're often run solely off the financial contributions of community members and volunteers. But despite their sometimes-dated appearances, inside their doors you'll find important spaces of learning and archiving.

Following my usual pattern of trying out a new hobby, I've gone straight from no interest at all to moderate obsession. There are so many great, inexpensive museums right here in the Midwest, and I've become a frequent guest.

Yet, with all the good stuff that comes with celebrating the past, it is important to note the stories I've learned about the history of our state and country during these last few months aren't always positive. It is astounding how truly terrible people can be to other people.

But there is deep value in taking time to study the actions of the past even when the decisions, laws and wars were less than admirable. For in doing so, we better recognize the responsibility that comes with being here on this planet now … and why it is so imperative to be advocates for peace and mutual respect among all people regardless of race, religion and sexual orientation.

I celebrated the Fourth of July this year at Fort Snelling. While there, a man dressed in historical re-enactment garb shared a profound insight. He was speaking to a large group of bystanders. "Let me give you all some important advice," he said. "Do not be stingy with your curiosity."

By taking an interest in the past and asking questions, the man said, people could inspire one another to keep learning. He wanted the crowd to appreciate that curiosity is never wasted. On the contrary, it's beautifully contagious.

So let us heed the timeless guidance of a man dressed in a military uniform from centuries past. Do not be stingy with your curiosity. Let it grow and take root that we all might eat of its fruit.

Related Topics: HISTORY
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