(Frequently Asked Questions)
On my travels, people constantly want to know more about the “others” and my not so “normal” upbringing. I’ve set aside this space to address some of the most common questions.
How did all of these extraordinary “others” make it into your childhood?
The answer to that traces all the way back to my grandfather on my mother’s side. He turned what started innocently enough into what has become a remarkable journey. “But,” as he said to me, “I was simply trying to follow the lessons and values I learned from my own parents.”
When my grandfather was a war correspondent during World War I, he came into contact with displaced civilians throughout Eastern
Europe. Many had lost their homes, their livelihoods, even their families. In some cases, entire communities had been completely
destroyed—there would be no returning to a place that no longer even existed. As my grandfather interviewed these people for his
stories, he was struck by the “character” some exhibited in the face of such chaos and future uncertainty, and he realized that only a
strong faith and foundation of “values” could give them this strength.
Since his aging parents owned a complete “section” of land (a “section” is one square mile, or 640 acres), he knew there was
plenty of land capable of supporting quite a few people, while still leaving room enough for cattle, farming, fishing and otherwise just
“enjoying the scenery.” The newcomers, or “others,” would be delighted to assist in tending to the land in exchange for a safe
place to live. My grandfather knew that his parents would eagerly welcome the “others,” many of whom they had already become
acquainted with through their son’s published stories.
Of course, my grandfather realized that he couldn’t bring everyone, so he selected those he thought could help teach his
daughter (my mother) about the “values” that really mattered to him. Getting the others here was a “process,” but that’s another
My mother met my father when she went off to the “university.” My father was, as he tells it, “smitten” by the young woman in his classes who exuded such confidence and maturity. As they got to know each other and my mother told him about her home, he said that he would like to meet her father and some of the people she referred to as the “others.”
That first visit sealed the deal. To my father, my mother represented “the complete package.” They married just before my dad went off to the Second World War.
During the War, my dad moved around from Northern Africa to all over Europe, where he saw people who were just as displaced as
those my grandfather had seen a generation earlier.
When my father returned after the war, he and my grandfather made a decision to actively “recruit” additional “others” who could
add to the values base and mentor the children who would be coming along—namely, me and my sister.
The others mentioned in the book are the result of my grandfather’s and my dad’s recruiting efforts. My grandfather’s job as a traveling correspondent (the term emanates from the word “correspond” which meant work away from the home base and send dispatches or “file” stories) eventually took him to South America and the Pacific. He even made it to China and India to find Xiaoling and Indira.
Exactly! They weren’t “displaced.” Why would such successful people come to live with you?
“Success,” unfortunately, is a term normally associated with someone who has climbed a financial mountain. It’s sad that this
has become an accepted norm. To me, all of the others achieved success.
In spite of what many people believe, there is not a one-to-one relationship between money and happiness. For the others, there
was an opportunity to know true happiness. That’s what my dad and grandfather offered, and for those who came, it became a fact.
After they came to live with us, none of the others would have changed positions with someone else.
My dad and grandfather also realized that people who’ve had their time in the limelight can wind up looking for something more at
some point, especially after their “star” has begun to fade.
Of course, there were those who had faced life’s challenges and emerged victorious. They couldn’t wait for the opportunity to finally share their lessons! Mentoring and living in a diverse environment surrounded by like-minded individuals satisfied a need that
couldn’t be, or no longer could be, met by their existing circumstances.
My grandfather, my father (and now me) simply offer those we think can bring something “new” the opportunity to share and find
happiness whenever they feel they are ready.
Why did you choose these “others” for the book?
Over the years I’ve had many mentors. The ones I’ve chosen to highlight in the book are some of the most memorable.
What role did your mother play in all this?
Mom-as all moms are-was incredible! She had grown up surrounded by her dad’s original group of mentors-each of whom had shown her love and taught her many things. As the others aged, Mom put the values she had learned into action-she became a caregiver. Eventually she was able to hire a staff to help. Many of the others could prepare their own meals, but after we added a professional cooking staff, whom Faith helped train, most of the others preferred to dine together.
Living quarters were no problem. Yakov and Zuka could build almost anything. Indira helped with the design; Raina did the “heavy lifting;” Quinn assured that quality standards were met; and, Leisel saw to it that everything was done with proper permits. Naturally, Pedro added the finishing touches to the Great Room. Everyone else participated as best they could.
Did you “share” the others?
Yes. Mom gets the credit here. When I got to the fifth grade, I wanted to start bringing friends over. By this time, since I had
taken several of the others to “Show and Tell,” the school already was aware that we had something different going on over at our
Mom eventually organized the others so that young visitors could drop by after school on scheduled days. This worked out very well
for everybody! This activity grew to extend beyond just those kids in my grade or my sister’s. The others’ eagerness to share knew no
The others would gather in the Great Room, where the kids could meet them in a non-threatening environment. Each “other” wore a
jacket, sweater or apron with a large letter on it indicating the value they represented. The kids could pick who they wanted to
visit with on a particular day. I’m sure you can guess that my Boy Scout friends found Yakov to be the most interesting, but none of
the others lacked for attention!
Where is your sister today?
My sister spends the bulk of her time traveling around helping others start their own Giving Circles.
As you already know, Sis was tremendously influenced by Georgia and her “Giving Circles.” Sis tells me that one of the first things
she does every morning (and the last thing she does at night) is to touch Georgia’s bracelet (someday, I’m sure people will be referring to it as Sis’ bracelet). Touching it reminds her of her mission and the joy all of the bracelet’s previous owners experienced while trying to “give it all away.”
Sis tends to focus her efforts at a granular level. She has made it her goal to help people start their own local Giving Circles. She is
not as concerned about large groups or wealthy philanthropists—they typically already have giving organizations and structures in
[Note to readers—if established organizations are what you are after, an Internet search will provide you with plenty of information and links to any number of these organizations. Do careful research to determine which is most closely aligned with your objectives.]
Sis says, “If your requirements are more local, or involve time and talents more than money, consider creating or joining a
neighborhood Giving Circle. The basic thing to remember is that anyone can participate in a Giving Circle, at virtually any level of
involvement. Localized groups can pick projects and causes that have an immediate, identifiable impact. Additionally, you are sure
that your voice gets heard, and your cause is honored.”
Today there are hundreds of Giving Circles in the United States, and many more located throughout the world. However, we still need more.
Not every child has a mother, father and an extensive group of mentors. How does Tell the Children relate to them?
Unfortunately, many children don’t have access to enough positive role models and mentors. Tell the Children was written to help parents, single parents, foster parents and other mentors by providing stories and material that can be easily shared. Children will readily identify with the “others,” and make them a part of their own “friends” data bank. The storytelling format helps children by making it easier to remember and “associate” the various lessons.
To get the most value from the book, it is important to re-visit the stories and use the characters’ names when you relate the lessons to everyday living. If you forget, don’t worry. Your child will help.
Are the “others” real people?
This is always the question that brings me the greatest pleasure.
No, this is a work of fiction. However, the values are real.
The book’s characters are composites of many real people and mentors I have met in my lifetime. I’ve been fortunate enough to
travel to most of the places mentioned, and I clearly enjoy meeting new people and learning about other cultures. What I’ve found (as
did my father and grandfather in the book) is that “values” (and character) exist everywhere, but communicating and passing down
important lessons is a dying art. We must reverse this trend!
Even after I have made it clear that I created these particular “others,” I still have people ask me such questions as, “Could
Bradford really tell the difference between the dirt from the back and front flowerbeds?” or “Do you give tours of the Great Room?” For many, thankfully, the “others” become real. It sure makes telling their stories easier.
I love it when people tell me that certain characters remind them of their mom or some other loved one. Me, too!