April 29, 2005

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Welcome to the latest 'new beginning'

This may be the close of the cruelest month, according to T.S. Eliot, but in fact it’s the beginning of promise and fulfillment for many of us. It’s the time of graduations and ordinations, weddings and anniversaries—events marking the rewards, renewal and celebrations of life.

Even nature agrees. Animals produce baby fawns and bear cubs, trees leaf out and flowers bloom. Pollen rises and allergies flare, alas. But despite the occasional downside, spring seems to produce in us a hopeful urge to freshen up, organize and renew. The redundant term “new beginning” must’ve been invented for this season.

In spring years ago, the high school or college graduate could look forward to finding a job with a large, stable company like Ford or Westinghouse, which offered lifetime job-security, benefits and pensions. In fact, we used to call GM “Generous Motors.” Think of that.

A newlywed couple would begin to nest with modest expectations. Perhaps they’d buy a little home in a humble housing project or a used car. Their home was furnished in Early Attic and their meals featured a lot of macaroni and baked beans. When the babies came, and they always did, mom stayed home and dad was the sole financial support of the family.

In those days, the coming of spring meant Little League, kids playing outdoors at last and parents hoping the kids were promoted in school. It also meant the end of Mom’s numerous volunteer jobs until she was nabbed for a fresh batch in the fall. Vacations were family affairs, often involving camping and brown bag lunches.

Today, it seems that many high school or even college graduates are badly educated, while qualified young folks keep going to school for more and more training because they can’t find jobs. When they do find employment, there often are no benefits attached and no certainty that the employer will stay in business for long.

Young lovers buy huge, expensive houses and move in together, reportedly to test their compatibility before marrying. They don’t have babies while young because modern science allows them not to. But sometimes this backfires, and then they need modern science in order to help them conceive. Marriage may or may not be part of this scenario.

Divisive polarization occurs in every venue, including politics, scientific discovery and parent-teacher organizations. What we thought were moral verities have morphed into the Terri Schiavo case, capital punishment of guilty-but-mentally-retarded people and partial-birth abortion.

Lest we get too carried away about how good the old days were versus the bad new ones, we should remember the downside of the past. Those were times when handicapped children were sent to institutions or kept at home for life, remaining untrained for whatever potential they possessed. Automobiles were more dangerous, diseases such as polio were epidemic and girls’ sports were practically non-existent.

Well, guess what. Human behavior and perception being what they are, maybe we should just greet springtime each year with, “Welcome to the latest version of a new beginning.” One of these days it just might lead to something great!

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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