High School and a Life's Journey to 2002
|This is the story of a journey of
40 years. No, I'm not planning to bore you with an account of every day of my
existence. But it is a little scary and more than a little daunting to realize that
40 years have come and gone for me in this life since I graduated from high school in
What on earth was important enough about those forty years to justify my existence? Lots of things that sound ordinary in the telling now, kept me busy and seemed most important to me, filling my days and nights with family and faith, caring and love. Maybe (for me) these are the most important things. Only time will tell, only God can judge the outcome.
I married a good man who worked hard for over 37 years to be sure that his family had all he could give them. We have been happy and had much more fun than hard times in our 37+ years together. This year, we were able to become two of the retired folk. I'm praying that God will grant us many years of quality retirement in which to enjoy the freedom to travel and pursue other goals than working allowed us.
We have two beloved daughters that really care about us and have made us proud of them more times than we could list, even if we had 300 MGB WebPages (and the total recall necessary to list every way in which they have amazed and confounded us with their presence in our lives over these many years). We tried to teach them values of respect and caring for others, tolerance of other's beliefs and opinions and, most importantly, respect for and belief in their own worth. Now, each is married and struggling to pass those same values on to their children in this strife-filled world at the beginning of a new millenium.
Speaking of grandchildren. We are lucky to have seven. It's really amazing to be a grandparent. And easier than being a parent. You really don't have to make the hard decisions. At least most of the time. Leave the curfews and rules to the parents and just try to soak in the giggles and hugs, the whispered secrets and games of cards or checkers. Remember the funny stories and precious behaviors even when they are acting out and you want to believe they are someone else's naughty little monsters. Sounds simple --- it's NOT! These kids are a product of this generation. There are influences and pressures on them that shape their personalities and perceptions of everything. I don't like it that sometimes I can't help them find the easy answer to solve the problems they must face. 21st Century society has thrown them some curves that I didn't experience 40 years ago. So the best I can do, is to be there with Grandma hugs when stuff goes crazy around them. In the total scheme of life, their big tragedy is going to be a tiny bump, but that's not easy to convey to a child (of two or of fifteen). And, sometimes, tiny bumps hurt like hell!
When I graduated from high school, I had virtually no spiritual life. God seemed far away in Heaven, someone capable of sending down judgement and wrath and to be feared, at least a little bit. Jesus was mainly the reason there was Christmas and the Holy Spirit, well....no opinion, no comment on him...it...?.... ! When I married a Catholic, some of those attitudes began to change. I wanted to find out more. I have, but not enough. So I keep reading, keep studying, keep listening to others and hunting for answers to mysteries that have confounded believers for 2000 years. Sometimes, I feel comfortable and comforted in my Faith, but just when I think that I understand something, that's when I get a new puzzle to try and solve. I don't think my quest will be over in this life. I pray that I will be granted the opportunity to seek answers in the next. And I am grateful every day for living in a country where my faith is my business and I have the freedom to worship freely.
In forty years I have lived to witness many conflicts involving the United States. Some of the major ones have been the Vietnam war, the Civil Rights movement, including the riots that resulted, the Gulf War and the 9-11 and it's aftermath. In reality, there has been some type of strife, some conflict, some dissention, somewhere in the world for every moment of those 40 years. The Flower Children begged the world to "give Peace a chance" while I diapered babies and learned to stretch the dollars from John's salary so I could stay at home to raise our daughters. I still remember the exact circumstances of my existence at the moment when I heard of the deaths of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. In tangible and esoteric ways, all of these events shaped the way our world evolved to be what it is today.
I don't always like the changes that I see in the way that people deal with one another anymore. In the 40 years since I graduated from High School there has been such a change in basic human behavior toward others of their species. Many times, I have seen more care and concern for animals and their rights than those of human beings. The continued dominance of television as a primary form of entertainment has changed the way that people view our world. One of it's most horrible examples is in the humor that we now find we can laugh at. Next time you view your favorite sitcom, listen with an open mind and sensibility to the "put-down" type of humor that makes up a large part of the dialog on most of these shows. People that purport to love and care for each other, 'disrespect' them at every opportunity and WE, the viewers, laugh and enjoy the exchanges. Then, with that excellent BAD example firmly implanted in our minds, is it any wonder, that we dish out that same disrespect to many of those people that we interact with in our real daily lives?
Why did it go out of fashion to treat people with courtesy and kindness? Forty years ago, the average person would not have seriously contemplated treating even an enemy as poorly as many treat their friends and loved ones now days.
Forty years ago, businesses cared to offer a certain level of service to their customers. When you telephoned a business, you spoke to a real live person who immediately began to help you with whatever problem you had called about.
Now many businesses, big and small, assault your ears and take up your time with recorded voice mail messages that take long minutes to wade through before you even speak to your first real live human being. I say first, because 3 out of 5 times, you are going to find that that first human voice can't help you and you will be "transferred" to someone else, who may then transfer you to a third and so forth and so forth. You get the picture, we've all been there, more times than we wanted to be.
Go to a store and you will find many of the employees are incapable of answering your queries because "well, that's not my department, but let me call customer service for you" (if you're lucky, otherwise just wander around some more looking for someone who is in that department and isn't hiding in the stockroom reading a comic book). There are less employees on the floor, because management has determined that customers are going to buy anyway, so they can save a few salaries and their "bottom line" will make the stockholders happy in the next quarterly report. In the mean time: Damn the paying customer, they are simply a means to an end, not really worth treating with respect so long as they still pull out their wallet at the check out counter. The sad side note in this, is that most customers put up with this, perhaps grumbling a little bit but have trained themselves to expect this level of non "service" and like domestic turkeys (stupidest bird alive) go along with the process time and time again.
Well, as usual, I've gotten away from the original subject and started in on a pet peeve of mine. But it's not just an irritant. It is a real concern and has a sad effect on the world around us. It coarsens our expectations for the world and our treatment within it. The older a person is, the more likely you are to hear a lament of the loss of thoughtfulness, helpfulness, kind treatment of friends and strangers.
I am issuing a challenge to every reader: Today, somewhere in your day, chances are great that you will encounter a rude or thoughtless person. When this happens, please respond with courtesy and gentleness. It may work to change an unpleasant situation. But, even if it does not, you will have planted an unconscious thought process into that person's mind. We all learn by what we see and experience. Make it your mission to be a good example of grace and courteous behavior. But I do have another, more proactive suggestion that I hope you will practice as well.
If you are poorly treated by a business where you are looking to spend your money, ask to speak with that person's supervisor. Without anger, or blame, explain your dissatisfaction and ask for assistance in changing the error or omission. Nothing will change if you merely take your business to another vendor. So give the business a chance to make changes in service that will better serve your needs. If nothing changes, then withdraw your business but write a letter to the company to inform them you have tried to resolve the treatment you have received and are still not satisfied. State that because of the actions of the company you will be taking your business elsewhere in the future. Then stick to that decision. With a business, the only way any of us have a say is with our wallets. It's a powerful way to demand the respect that we all deserve as human beings. And we can engineer these results without losing our self respect and without leaving behind a negative impression of what we were trying to do. If we lose our temper, it gives the witness a reason (in his mind) to justify his poor treatment (of us) and dismiss the validity of our complaint.
I don't want the "good old days" back. There was a lot of stuff wrong in the world of my high school years. And there is much that is wonderful and exciting and dynamic about our world today. But I do hope that people will move toward a resurgence of courtesy and concern for the well being of other people. If we could learn to weigh the needs of others along with our own agenda, we would go a long way toward making a more livable planet for all of us. Then our children and grandchildren can speak fondly in future years of their "good old days".
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