When I was growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, I had the good fortune of living in a community of hardworking common people. I suppose by today’s standards we would have been considered borderline poor, but we had a roof over our head, soft beds, people who loved us and our tummies were always full due to home cooked meals and mouth watering baked goods provided by our “housewife” mothers. We were happy in our world because for the most part, the people we saw and spent time with were content with their lot in life. No one had a lot, but we all had enough.
We were taught respect…for our elders, our teachers, our Pastors, and each other. We were not allowed to express our displeasure in an unpleasant way. Civility was encouraged. No! Civility was demanded.
We knew where we stood competitively because only the best and brightest were awarded. Those of us who did not place well in whatever event we were in, accepted the fact that we just did not do as well as those who won. This was where we learned the “specialness” of high achievers, and where we were left to ponder if we wanted to increase our efforts to do better, or if we just accepted our loss as a reality of the limits of our ability. Were we content to be average if we tried our best and still lost? Yes! Average was respected too. As Abraham Lincoln said, “God must have loved the common man because He made so many”. Because there are so many common people, there tends to be comfort in numbers and we enjoyed our life and what we had been given. We were content to know those who excelled and enjoyed watching what their success brought to them. We were realistic about life not being fair and we were realistic that we could live with that.
Before the days of mass media, our world was limited to our local communities and so our awareness of sickness, poverty, and death was also limited. The news was on a couple of times a day and most of us children never watched it because it was “boring”. We were able to grow up in a world where our belief system was supported by those around us and I can honestly say, I do not remember anyone being angry with the world. In fact, sometimes it was the child from the poorest circumstance who was the nicest and most generous because they learned early on that their personal wants and desires were not as important as the greater needs within the family.
Here we are now, 60 plus years from the days when I grew up. As a society, we have never had more financially or materially than we do now and sadly, we see more anger than gratitude, more “me” than “you”, more pride in self, and ego is running rampant. These days our society tends to place more importance on our children than our aging parents. Even while most parents and grandparents understandably tend to love and lavish praise on their children and grandchildren, wouldn’t it be better if these same children were taught that love is nice in the receiving but BLESSED in the giving?
I guess my point to this is that sometimes less IS more. If we learn to live with less we are free to enjoy the things in life that are outside the parameter of “what is in it for ME?” There are no easy answers to fixing our anger infused society, but in all truth, teaching acceptable behavior begins at home. There used to be a saying about children needing attention. It was said that if a child couldn’t get attention by being good, they were likely to get attention by being bad.
Love your children with all your heart, but at the same time one should teach the dangers and destruction of self importance. It is absolutely o.k. to be average. The average person has a lot to contribute to this society. Life itself is not a competition to see who is the best, brightest, or most noticed. Rather it is a journey down a road to self growth. We never grow during the perfect times. We grow through our challenges. There are no man made awards for humility….no man made awards for the humble. These awards are reserved for our almighty Creator to present to us when our life is finished. What we should really want for our children is, at the end of their life, for God to say “Well done, my child, your life on earth was well lived!”