Tag Archives: Greatest Generation

Yes, 2021 arrived, now a few musings for a new year

For a week, I have thought about how to look at 2021.  One challenge that showed up in my inbox was to identify one word for the new year. 

Immediately one popped up:  Resilience.  Why?  Think about the history of our country.  How many times has a challenge presented itself and the very principles that established this country sustained it for over 200 years.

Think about the history of Christianity, even it began with the resilience of the Jewish faithful who endured challenge after challenge without all the technology and global interaction or support available today.


One word to guide my thinking in the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of governmental change, in the midst of economic challenges, not to mention just the issue of the life challenges of growing older or recovering from a medical challenge or even loneliness we endure with the pandemic.

Resilience is essential for all of us.  Interestingly this is a trait, quality, life skill that is ignored in our educational system.  We need to teach resilience to our students, to the future generations.

There typically is not a set curriculum for teaching resilience, but it can be developed.  In literature, selections can be read and discussed using the word resilience as a connecting theme.

In all classes, resilience can be taught in how to manage difficult lessons, disappoint grades, life challenges like absences due to illness or to circumstances beyond the student’s control. Each failure becomes an opportunity to develop resilience whether in a classroom, in a personal relationship, in a family, in a neighborhood, in a community, or even in a country.


Personally, my belief in Jesus Christ and participating in a Christian community provides me the strength and even the skills needed to be resilient.  I just pray that my children and their families have come to know resilience in their lives, too, as they have witnessed in mine and their extended families.

We may be looking at 2021 through cracked lenses right now, but with resilience we will take the world as we see it and do whatever we can to make it better.

Isn’t that what Jesus would do?

Isn’t that what our founding fathers would do?

Isn’t that what the Greatest Generation would do?

We have an opportunity to take something that has challenged our very inner beings, our sense of safety, our sense of identity, and make a difference.

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, called his faithful to love one another by doing all we can do for all we can whenever we can for as long as we can.  This is how we become resilient as individuals, as a faith community, as global citizens.

My word for 2021:  Resilience.

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Filed under Education, History & Government, Lifestyle, Religion

Social media are today’s glass houses

The familiar saying, “He who lives in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” keeps bubbling up in my head.  This morning I suddenly realized that today’s social media is the equivalent of the glass house in this saying.

According to the website, https://www.phrases.org.uk/, which I accessed this morning,  “PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES SHOULDN’T THROW STONES – “Those who are vulnerable should not attack others. The proverb has been traced back to Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ .”   . . . [and] Benjamin Franklin also referenced this saying with a slight adjustment,  “‘Don’t throw stones at your neighbors’, if your own windows are glass.'”

Today we live in a transparent world when we step onto the world wide web through any of the social media available to us.  The social media is our glass house and what we post has the potential to damage another as easily as a stone destroys glass.

When I taught high school students journalism, I used to ask students would they want their grandmother to read what they wanted to print (yes print medium rather than broadcast medium was the standard in the 1970s and 1980s) if that was said about them. It seemed such an easy way to have them self-edit their work before publishing anything.

Today, that no longer serves as a good test as we are so removed from the social stigma’s of the ’70s and ’80s when grandparents were part of Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation.  Now the grandparent has evolved to those in the Baby Boomer generation who lived through the 1960s and 1970s when social standards began shifting–or tumbling.

Today we need to teach our young people, and maybe reteach even the younger Baby Boomers, that what they post on social media is forever printed in one manner or another.  The social media makes spreading gossip or menacing words so easy and once posted is there forever.

True, the social media has the positive value when spreading good news or complimentary words, but sadly our society seems not to share them as readily as they do the negative–another concept that needs direct teaching.

Today, teachers and parents must teach the young people from the first click of the electronic devices that what they say has tremendous power to damage someone else’s life.

Today, teachers and parents must teach the young people the power of the social media to do good, also.

Once that final click to post is made, there is no way to take away the effect of the words posted.

Let’s use the social tools we have available to keep the glass houses in tact rather than destroy with social media stones.


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Reality through R-2’s class of ’72

Admittedly graduates of 1972 are facing a new reality–we are reaching traditional retirement age.  Last week my hometown class faced the reality with the death of our classmate Steve.  The event might not seem noteworthy, but only one other classmate Debby has died and that was due to a train wreck within the first year after graduation.

Flash ahead to the events of another tragic school shooting this week.  How do these become connected?  For my classmates education was valued.  We were taught that school came first.  We were pushed to focus on academics even before sports–I know, that may shock many today.

My parents tasted college, but never finished a degree plan.  We lived in rural American when family farms were the norm in the Midwest.  They instilled the value of education for my brother and myself so we did complete college, even achieving our masters later in our adult lives.  We were blessed to have our parents and live in a rural community.

Reviewing the circumstances of the 1972 Class from Montgomery County R-II, I cannot escape making observations that may be overlooked in our current school environments, especially after this week’s horrific Florida school shooting:

  1. Numbers.  The size of our schools continues to grow reaching the size of a city.  How in the world can students be individuals if they are forced to bump shoulders, often literally, in the halls and classrooms of a building?
  2. Testing.  Another concern is that success in school is based on numbers, not on student individual growth.  The individual is lost in the demand that testing prove achievement. Some testing is necessary, but just as a marker not a permanent diagnosis.
  3. Teachers.  Value teachers!  What other profession places educational demands at the cost of the individual without fair and equitable salary and benefits.  The profession cannot maintain the gifted teachers who are called–yes called–to step into the classroom alone with 20-30 kids who no longer value education and/or have no stable home environment to support them as they step into the classroom.
  4. Students.  Yes, there are those who do value education, are respectful, and have a supportive system, but sadly they are being outnumbered by the students on the opposite side of the spectrum who need schools to be a safe, supportive, nurturing environment that can teach them how to dream, set a path to reach that dream, and to work successfully towards that dream once they are fed, clothed, and housed safely.

The classes of ’72 is waning and the generations now entering into the profession of education may not have any of the critical skills or understanding of how to teach the masses who are now generations removed from the Greatest Generation and its values.

Do I have recommendations?  Certainly,

  1. Reduce the size of schools.  Create a learning environment that is safe, family-like, and supportive.  I realize the cost is beyond consideration, but why not be inventive and establish settings in some of the places that are unused during the school week.  Think about empty store fronts, empty Sunday school classrooms, office buildings.  Use the spaces effectively and reduce the physical size of the schools were kids are crammed into one place.
  2. Establish reasonable testing expectations.  Numbers are NOT the only way to measure student growth.  You cannot boil education down to one standardized set of scores.  No child should be left behind, but education is not about a set of numbers, it is about growth and nourishing our young people to be the best they can be.
  3. Value teachers.  Provide a reasonable financial package, including appropriate benefits for teachers that attracts them into the profession rather than turn them away.  Teachers are life long learners, but the salaries do not support continued education even while requiring more formal education.  Masters degrees are expected within five years of starting one’s career.  Sadly the income cannot sustain a teacher to live at a comfortable standard and pay for the coursework demanded of the profession.  There is very little incentive to invest in teaching as a lifelong profession, especially if wanting to raise a family, too.
  4. Students are important.  Every teacher must be taught the neurology of learning and the development markers that all students inevitably must face and manage.  Education is malleable, not concrete.  No one student follows a prescribed formula. Each student is different and all teachers must be taught to know that and even to recognize that reality.  Students must be valued.  Students must not be just a number.

Our society must accept the reality that we are far removed from the Greatest Generation.  The truth is the potential for each generation to be the greatest is always present.  The horror is that we are not acknowledging the potential in our individual students by the devaluing of the human factors in education.

Our culture places the dollar before education.  Education is how we make American great again.  When we prioritize the profession, the teachers, and especially the students then we will make American great again.  This week’s violence must not be forgotten.  Let’s use it as a cry for the change at the very foundation of our society–our education of the future.  This is the way to stop the violence in the schools–shift the value, even the paradigm, of education in our schools today.

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Lessons from the Greatest Generation: faith, family and friends

Mom and Dad were part of the Greatest Generation.  My brother and I are Baby Boomers.  My son and daughter are Generation X.  Today signals the final passing of the Greatest Generation in our family, but the lessons continue.  Who we are is dependent on who our parents were and from them we learned the keys to surviving in this 21st century and those keys come in the form of faith, family, and friends.


Faith, not family came first.  The testimony of Mom’s life can be found in the multitude of faces she touched.  They witnessed how faith coupled with her innate teaching ability could change a world.  When asked why she had to face breast cancer, her answer was “Why not me?”


Faith answers the mysteries of life.  Faith means letting go of control and trusting in what we do not fully understand.  Even in the communion liturgy, the mystery of faith is explained in one simple line:  Christ lived.  Christ died.  Christ will come again.


The mystery of life’s glories versus life’s tribulations is managed by one rule, the Golden Rule:  Love one another as you want to be loved.  Mom lived that rule outwardly, yet privately she was happiest at home with nature.


Dad’s faith was quieter in comparison to Mom’s, but the results were the same.  Dad’s passion for farming paled in comparison to his passion for people.  Dad loved people, and he exhibited a servant’s heart.  If someone asked, he did his best to help.  The trials farming handed him were extremely heart-wrenching, but few knew his troubles as compared to how he reached out to love others.


The Greatest Generation recognized the role faith plays in one’s daily life.  Faith provided the ground work for family.  Family for the greatest generation was defined as a lifetime responsibility, a lifetime commitment.  Certainly there were situations in which families were broken, but overall the Greatest Generation is characterized by God, family, and country.  This defined their lives through war, depression, and even social strife.


As the years passed since Mom’s death and Dad’s illness, the model of family they established has sustained our generation.  Parents’ grace given to their children is modeled after God’s grace–love undergirds all whether it is good or bad.  Unconditional love regardless of birth order, regardless of intelligence, regardless of behaviors, even regardless of choices.


Mom had intuitive skills that superseded her own education, and she knew, really knew what was running through our minds.  She knew when we were naughty or nice.  Dad simply expected you to be good.  If you weren’t, you never wanted to do it again–another life mystery.


Our parents taught us lessons that can never be written into formal curriculum units and delivered in daily lesson plans.  There is no textbook that could possibly translate all the rules, the rituals, the history, and the communication skills that provide young people the foundation for building a solid, indestructible life.


Family is not a unique concept, and much our understanding of the family unit is developed from the Judeo-Christian cultural standards.  Not one family is perfect;  perfection is strictly for God.  Yet family is the initial social structure to which each of us is born.  From there, our world expands as we step away from family and into society around us introducing us to friends.


Friends begin with a common bond, but for faith-based individuals, no person is beyond the possibility of friendship.  Mom had her strengths as a Christian that helped her reach out to others, to listen, to teach, to love one another.  Dad’s Christian strength was his love for his neighbor, his fellow man, woman, and child.  They modeled the Golden Rule especially in the manner in which they were community members.


This bond of friendship has provided life lines throughout Mom’s cancer battle and death, and it has been demonstrated over 20 years as Dad was trapped in a state of limbo, caught between life and death.  Friends have prayed, visited, checked on, and prayed some more for Dad.


Being a friend is work.  Being a friend is following God’s Golden Rule.  Friendship is a reward in our lifetime that sustains us through the life’s challenges, joins us in celebrations, and carries us through this lifetime.


Mom and Dad may both be beyond our physical reach, but they are with us.  We are responsible for living the lessons they taught and modeled.  There is no reason that their death should damage the foundations of faith, family and friends.  There is no reason to ask why they died, why they suffered, or why life lasted 20 years in limbo.


The gift of the ensuing generations to Mom and Dad is to live out their passions.  For baby boomers like my brother and myself and for generation X which includes my son and daughter, the true gifts that keeps on giving is to maintain family ties, to be stewards of this earth, and to teach our families their lessons of faith, family and friends.  This is living the Golden Rule and answering all the mysteries of life.

This reflection was written Sunday, December 8, 2013, after Dad’s death on December 3.  The 20 year saga of Dad’s encephalitis ended with his death at the Warrensburg Missouri Veterans Home.  Their care and love for Dad made the last 13 years manageable, maybe I should say bearable.  Thank you to them, thank you to God, my family, and my friends for all their love and support during this experience.  –Susan Annette Winter (McCrary) Smith

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