When I was a child, my grandmother, who lived through the Depression, saved everything.
Her fruit cellar was full of canned fruits and vegetables she had grown in her own garden, and her main concern was making sure the entire family had plenty of food.
We would pick vegetables and often take extras to the neighbors … even the younger woman, Sophie, who lived in the house behind my grandmother's. She didn’t always appreciate Sophie, as her plunging necklines didn’t often meet dress code approval of a more mature woman and her friends.
On Saturday mornings my grandmother would pick up my sister and I for our weekly visit. She took us to get a treat at the donut shop, and we’d spend the day together. Sometimes we would help her clean; other times we would laugh, look through family photos and ask questions about the people who were captured in the images.The best days often entailed baking cookies.
She always taught us the value of health, relationships and to respect ourselves, our family and our neighbors. These lessons have left a lifelong impression on me and how I raise my own children.
Somewhere along the line, those values have been thrown out the window for many – or perhaps they weren’t taught to everyone like I would automatically expect. Today I see parents teaching their young children about levels of social status, hoping to elevate their own perception of themselves. Additionally, these same parents sometimes coach these children into thinking and speaking that they are better than other children because of their presumed level of athleticism, the school they attend or the clothes they wear.
Unfortunately for those children, they will one day become adults and realize they’re sharing office space, neighborhoods and grocery stores with many of those same people for whom they’ve developed opinions. In some cases, they may find themselves employed by those same people for whom they held such low regard as children.
A good friend recently shared a blog titled The Disease of Perfection which was very interesting. The basic concept was that people, in general, are consumed with appearing to live a perfect life to the outside world, when all along they are living a façade. Nothing is perfect, ever. It got me thinking …
When did this happen? How did this happen?
All around us we see people losing the capacity for compassion and becoming desensitized to misfortunate and hardship. It’s becoming natural; it’s called self-centeredness. We watch neighbors compete with their landscaping – who has the most flowers or the biggest variety planted, who throws the most extravagant parties, who pays the most for pre-school tuition, which school the children attend, the make/model of cars they drive, the trips they take, the books they read, the list is endless.
The media has contributed. We watch out-of-control reality celebrities attack each other verbally and even physically on some occasions. We witness drug-addicted celebrities like Charlie Sheen spiraling downward as entertainment television exploits their demise making them fodder for entertainment, and we even have children bullying and trying to hurt each other with cruel words and sometimes physical intimidation on our own baseball fields.
Regardless of where it originates, we as a society need to change. We seem to have lost site of the human factor while we focus more on keeping up with, or outdoing, our neighbors. For many, this results in overspending, loss of true friendships and regression as a whole.
I realize this change can't be made overnight. However, I do believe that each of us as parents, community members and beyond can make a difference. Stop and think about what you’re doing, what you’re saying. Our children are watching—they are truly a reflection of us. So, when little Johnny comes home from playing with the neighbor kids and says, “Suzie Q. said she’s better than me because she attends private school,” know parents, this is a reflection of what they’ve been taught. People are watching.
The true meaning of life isn’t about the size of our bank accounts or how much brawn we carry. It is the people and the relationships we have while we are here. Unfortunately, many people haven’t discovered this yet.
For those of you, like myself, who realize we all have shortcomings, here are a few suggestions parent-to-parent. Teach your children manners, right versus wrong, set limits of acceptable behavior and to respect your neighbor for how they treat you versus what they have in their garage.
This will teach children humility – a wonderful and fulfilling trait.