I don’t post personal things on Facebook much. I don’t believe in airing my dirty laundry, and I happen to like my life, so I see no reason to complain about it, even when I struggle. Having said that, I want to share a bit of a story with you in the hopes that it might provide some perspective on this generation.
When my dad was a kid he prayed in school, got spanked when he got in trouble, went to church and read the bible. He played outside, did sports and hunted. Things were different then, with no Internet, color TV or cable. As he grew up, he joined the military, worked for Milwaukee and BN railroads, got married and had children. When times were tough, he buckled down and worked harder. If people were struggling, he did what he could to help. When his mother was older he bought her a house and took care of her. He looked after a few of his brothers from time to time, too. Cancer took his life, too soon, but by most accounts he lived an honorable life and enjoyed a modicum of success. I guess things were better and different for his generation…
What he didn’t tell many people is how much hated his childhood. Oh, not all of it, of course. Very few people can say that, but he did have his moments. He got picked on and hazed as a kid, horribly so. So badly that people would come up to me 60 years later to tell me how sorry they were that it happened, how bad some of the kids had it back then. You see, it wasn’t popular to be an Indian in a Catholic school and he didn’t have the advocates like he would have had today.
When he was about ten, he got his 1st job setting up pins in a bowling alley. He didn’t do it for fun, he did it so he could buy clothes for himself. You see, alcoholism and gambling were big issues back then, and his family wasn’t immune to the problems they caused. But that wasn’t something that was talked about like it is today.
His older brother took his own life at the age of 17 and decades later that still haunted my father. Times were hard, but you weren’t supposed to talk about it back then.
The world was a very tough, cruel place 60 years ago. Bad things happened back then, just as they do now. Yet Kids in my father’s day generally had it better than their parents did, how could they not? It’s called progress. I had it better than my father did. But you know what? I was bullied, picked on- even ended up homeless for a time as a teenager. The world wasn’t always a great place when I was kid, either.
So why am I sharing all of this? Maybe because I think it’s time we stopped looking at the world through the false lens of nostalgia and idealism and started taking responsibility for the way things are, right now. My father had it tough, no doubt about it. But you know what? A lot of people did. What made a difference in my dad’s life, and in mine, were the people that came up next to him and influenced his life in a positive manner. A nun taught him the value of self-respect and hard work. A school principal, a teacher and a pastor were huge influences for me. So were many friends and family members along the way. This world is what we choose to make of it now, not what it was, not what it will be. You get out there and you do good things today.