Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when we help the rising generation to learn from the past. We understand that human nature does not change; we also understand that many of the youth of today are similar to us in our younger days when we thought we knew more than our parents did about any given subject. We learned as we matured that the older generations gained wisdom through their personal experiences, and we seek wisdom from them.
I recently had the opportunity to visit a couple whom my children adopted as their grandparents. Grandpa is nearly 91 years of age, and Grandma is just a few years younger. We met them approximately thirty years ago on one of their trips to Alaska. My husband took the older children to float down the Gulkana River; I kept our youngest son with me as we dropped them off and returned to camp. I was washing dishes in our little trailer while my son played around outside. I noticed that he was missing and went looking for him. I had barely stepped out of the trailer when I saw him coming towards me holding the hand of an older woman who was smiling. He had wandered into their camp, and she brought him home. Our family has stayed in contact with them since that day, and we have visited them whenever possible.
Since Grandma and Grandpa live in another state, I see them every couple or so years when my husband and I are near their home. This year we were enjoying a normal conversation about their many travels since he retired from working for a telephone company. I knew they had done a lot of traveling around the United States and asked if they had traveled to any foreign nations.
Grandpa immediately said yes – and I recognized right away that he meant during World War II. I asked a few questions about where he served and then sat back and enjoyed his great wisdom. He marched across Africa with his Army unit and then went into Europe – Sicily, Italy, Normandy, etc. After the war with Germany was over, he was on a ship heading home when his ship was turned around to go fight Japan. He said that he saw all of the foreign countries that he wanted to see. The only country he would even consider visiting again is Switzerland. When I questioned why he liked Switzerland so much, he indicated that the people are very friendly.
I have learned much from the Greatest Generation. Since my own parents as well as my husband’s parents have all passed on to a better world, I am grateful that my children and grandchildren have these adopted grandparents who continue to share their wisdom with me and my posterity. We can help the rising generation learn some of the lessons of past history by sharing with them what we know and putting them in contact with those who lived it. Hopefully, we can teach them before they make fools of themselves like the clerk in the following story.
When we learn from the past, we can live better in the present and prepare for the future. I know that we can strengthen our families, communities, and nations by learning from the past generations.
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”
The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”
She was right – our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truly recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.
We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and did not climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.
Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts – wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our day. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house – not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.
Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.
But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?