February 23, 2018

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Looking back, the good old days were good when they weren’t bad

Cynthia DewesRecently, I heard an advertisement offering a home delivery service for groceries. You go online and view the food lineup, order exactly what you want, and soon the groceries are delivered to your home. You’re billed by credit card, and everybody’s happy.

Big deal. When I was a child, my mom used to phone the grocery store in the town two miles away and order her groceries from a clerk she knew personally. In a couple of hours, the food would be delivered by car and the cost added to our bill which was paid monthly. Again, everybody was happy.

Somehow, in those days, we limped along living a full life without modern technology. Imagine that. Now, I’m not claiming that that was always a better way, just that we shouldn’t forget that it was possible to function cheerfully without it. The old clichés come to mind: “What goes around comes around,” or “You’re reinventing the wheel.” But then, clichés are old fashioned by definition.

In some ways, life was easier then. We didn’t worry about paying for child care, because moms (and, rarely, dads) stayed home while their spouse worked a job to support the family. Of course, that limited what careers a woman might pursue, and put a big responsibility on the working spouse. Not to mention that companies provided jobs that could be held for a lifetime.

On the other hand, it seems to me that kids usually profited from more parental attention. Most parents were available, but not as helicopter parents just because they were on the scene, or out of guilt as some do today.

It tended to make children feel secure. And they learned from a kind of osmosis about living life in a functional way. They learned the basics, such as walking to the right or showing empathy to others, simple efforts that often seem to be lacking today.

Families had more children then, so play dates and many organized sports and events weren’t necessary. Socialization came with interaction with others as schoolmates and neighbor kids. It gave children experience in dealing with peers as well as parents and other authority figures.

Most families could live on one salary, especially in a time when employers provided good pensions, paid vacations and other perks. Employees tended to remain in one job for years, usually in the same location. Today, people move from job to job for better pay or benefits, and society is more mobile. There’s something to be said for variety, but stability can suffer if there’s too much of it.

But that was then. Time goes on, and things change. We can learn from the past but we can’t, and often shouldn’t, replicate it.

Needless to say, the current trend of couples living together without being married has created a generation or more of children without roots. In some cases, they are shuttled from parent to parent to relatives and grow up without a clue as to how to live in a fulfilling way. Their focus by necessity is directed within themselves, and the ability to love others is diminished.

Still, just when we think the world is going to hell in a hand basket (another cliché) we find ourselves with Pope Francis to lead us back to reality. While it’s true that religion may be out of fashion, Christ’s message is not.

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

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