If you read my stuff much, you know that I talk a lot about the importance of our local natural resources: trees, soil, water, and such. But the recent death of my Aunt Lorene has reminded me that we are slowly losing another important resource…our elders
Lorene’s generation grew up during an amazing time. Most folks still farmed, lived simply, and had big families. They spent their childhood during the Great Depression and young adulthood during World War II. In his book, Tom Brokaw called them the Greatest Generation, and I agree. Their kind will likely not come again, so let me share some of what I learned from watching how they lived their lives.
Toughness: Man, they were a gritty bunch! They learned to work hard and help at an early age, and got by on not a whole lot. My Mom once said they didn’t know there was a Depression in the 1930s because they didn’t have much going into it, and not a lot coming out. World War II also forced frugality and sacrifice, and so they survived some very trying times.
Practicality: When I was 15 I was learning to drive a manual transmission, and having a hard time of it. While visiting my Aunt’s farm, Lorene showed me how to use the clutch on their old Farmall Cub tractor, and I caught on to that pretty quick. I was proudly driving that tractor around the barn, around the house, and having a big time. Lorene waves me over to her and I pull up, expecting to get a pat on the back for changing gears so good. Instead she suggested that I continue to practice by hauling manure from the barn to her garden. So a ton of manure later, I not only learned to use a clutch, I learned that it was “practical”.
Helpfulness: In a mountain farm community, folks knew their neighbors well enough to know their needs. This was back before there were things like welfare, unemployment support, or widespread medical insurance. So when a neighbor needed you, you helped. You re-built their barn after a storm, brought food when there was a death or sickness, or helped put up a tobacco crop. You were your brother’s keeper. And while I still see helpfulness today, it’s certainly not what it was.
Spirituality: As mentioned earlier, my parent’s generation endured lean times. When you don’t have much, you tend to stay humble and more able to appreciate the gracious gifts from above. Their closeness to the land also brought them closer to the Creator. So I learned that their ability to endure the uncertainties of frugal living, tough economic times, and a world at war was from their relationship with and dependence on, God.
So if you are fortunate enough to still have parents or grandparents from that time in history, let me encourage you to spend more time with them. Let them tell you stories, glean their hard earned wisdom. Write it down and make it an heirloom gift to your kids so they will appreciate and not forget a great generation.