"What Would You Tell the Next Generation?"
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Work and Wait
Midi: In the Good Old Summertime
I am 44 years old and I have seen the side of life that my children have never seen. I remember the days of the milkman coming early in the morning when the sky was just turning from gray to pink. I remember coal being delivered to my neighbor through their basement window,
when children played outside, everyday, rather than stuck in front of a TV, computer or a video game screen, the phone only did one thing; it rang, and neighbors talked to each other. These were the days when there was at least one parent presence in the house,
clothes were hung up outside for that fresh breezy smell, and girls used to wear dresses to school and to church.
Original of this picture (c) and found on
My home didn't have a color tv set until 1972 and we only had one TV. We used to stay in on the nights we washed our hair because we didn't have hand-held blow-dryers. We didn't have voice mail, call-return, caller ID and we didn't care because we figured if someone wanted to speak with us, they would just call back.
Sundays were spent going to church and then coming home for a big Sunday dinner of pot roast or baked chicken or roast beef with all the trimmings. Then we would pile in the car to go for a ride to nowhere or visit an aunt or Grandmother. There wasn't any pressure to have to do anything, no sense of idleness, no sense of loss. Most stores were closed so we learned to buy whatever we needed the day before. If a grocer was open, I think that all they were allowed to sell was milk, bread and eggs until a certain time. We were not rushed, we were not overtired and we spent that day as a family. If we stayed home after dinner, we spent that day collectively in the living room listening to records on our portable LP (long playing) record player or watching a Tarzan, Bowery Boys or Abbot and Costello movie.
When my children or others hear about our lives, they think that without the Internet, without computers, without VCRS or a TV in every room, that we had a hard life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our lives were almost stress free compared to the hectic, join every activity, have every appliance available (and the more of them the merrier) and run, run, run pace that people live in now. We knew and understood and practiced then that instant gratification was a fairy tale. We were willing to work and wait for what we wanted. We understood starting out and building up. Nowadays, newlyweds go into instant debt furnishing their house with the newest and best via credit cards. We traded up on our cars, now young ones plunge right into those models that emit that image of prosperity and prestige.
I think we were less vain. I think that our generation was less stressed and understood the value of relaxing, having a day off with the family.
Although I am a native New Yorker, I lived in Southern California for four years, one of those years was in Santee. Santee is a nice neighborhood, middle class, lots of retired Naval folk. I lived right by a mount (for lack of a better word) and spent many Sundays climbing around it with my friends. My daughter was born in La Mesa.
Picked-on-kids is not new. I was picked on. Abused kids in abusive homes is not new. If anything, schools and professionals and doctors have gotten better at spotting abuse nowadays than back then. None of kids problems that we have today are new. Drugs, pregnancies and sexual diseases were all present back then. It is how people have responded to these problems that have changed.
In a world of super information, quick and easy dinners, pop a pill to cure every ailment, instant gratification has turned a generation of children into selfish, I-want-a-solution-NOW-to-my-problem kids. Working it out, waiting it out is neanderthal. It is an extremely selfish act to take another's life in cold blood. Now, I am not talking about self defense and you know it. For one to plot plan and open fire and kill is about selfishness. It is about immaturity. It is about a person who cannot wait until circumstances change or about a person who is too lazy to work at a solution and who is too immature to wait for an answer.
What ever happened to punching someone in the nose? What ever happened to waiting for your first high school reunion and showing up all trim and fit with the best looking guy/gal on your arm and flaunting your great career in front of everyone? Oh, that's right, you have to WAIT to do that and that is something this generation has not learned to do.
My advice to this generation? Slow down. Learn to take a day off with your loved ones. Don't put your child in every activity, soccer, lacrosse, dance, music, voice lessons.
Quit running from yourselves. Business does not equate to success. And teach yourselves and your children to wait for those things that they want. Teach them to wait. To work for things, to earn them.Be there to talk to them about their problems. Learn to paint the picture of time for them. An example would be, "Yes, I know this hurts you now. This is now and you have your whole life ahead of you. In twenty years you will see this differently,"and give them some solutions, solutions where they learn to work out their problems over time instead of an instant solution of blowing away their classmates. Be an example of patience, endurance and of one willing to work and wait.
This is society's quintessential question. Can you answer,
"What Would You Tell the Next Generation?"
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© 2000, Peter Lance Segall
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