Thank God I was raised by parents of the “Greatest Generation.” They understood things like rationing for the war effort, waiting in lines for food or going without during the Depression, young people working to help their own family pay household bills, serving and being loyal to their country, and being prepared for disasters.
Even though I didn’t have to live through those things myself, my parents passed their understanding and perspective on to me. I appreciate and am grateful for that. My mother taught me manners and integrity, and my father gave me his good old German work ethic. If you really need or want something, you better work hard for it. They both taught me to be frugal and live modestly.
We lived in an upper middle class suburban neighborhood. As I was growing up, I saw my friends being given everything. They had bigger houses, nice cars, designer clothes. I came home one day and asked my mom “Mom, are we poor?” She literally burst out laughing and in response said, “No honey, we’re not poor. We own everything we have. Other people finance everything. They don’t own their house, or their cars, and use credit cards for their clothes and vacations.” Then I asked, “If we have money, then why don’t you buy me the popular clothes and things like the other kids’ parents buy them?” She said, “Because if we gave you everything, then you wouldn’t learn to appreciate what you have. When you work for things yourself, you realize the value of time and money.”
Earlier this year I was driving through the high school parking lot to pick up my daughter at school. I looked around to see that almost every car parked in the student area was nicer than mine. Seriously? I’m sure these kids didn’t pay for these cars themselves. Their parents probably didn’t want to be embarressed by their child being seen driving a “beater” that they worked for and bought with their own money.
Unfortunately many in our country have forgotten the wisdom of my parents’ generation (or were never taught by their parents), and have brought children into this world who also don’t understand these concepts. It’s become a “keep up with the Joneses” country where both parents would rather have $60,000 cars and the newest iPhone than sacrifice and spend quality time raising their children. Their focus is “entitlement”.
Self-centeredness, immaturity and lack of values has destroyed the future generation of America. Children are alone and stressed most of the time. Young people are afraid for their future and angry that those before them have stolen their hope. They are facing huge amounts of college debt, and don’t even believe they will ever be able to buy a home of their own. They have doubts that their relationships will last, and worry that if they have children, they may also suffer through divorce.
This is the legacy our generation has left our children? This is the result of the choices our generation have made (we 70-35 year olds). WE are the problem. Not the kids. Not the guns. Not half the things we blame circumstances on.
The world we live in today is the world we have made. We could do something about it, but we won’t. We’re too selfish and lazy to do that. It’s our children that are suffering as a result, and that makes me really angry. It will blow up in our face. My only hope (besides God Himself), is that our kids who have have watched from the sidelines and basically had to raise themselves, will figure out how to fix it before it’s too late.
I love my country. I love my freedom. But with that freedom comes the responsibility to do what’s right, not just whatever the h_ll we want. Grow up. Sacrifice. Practice honor and integrity. Value people and the intangible more than things you can buy with money.
I pray God protects and blesses our children…Lord knows we haven’t.
Often we want to present ourself to others as we have it all together, sometimes we even deceive ourselves that we do. But when we are hurting or struggling, the ones we seek for comfort or counsel are those who’ve been there and understand, not the “perfect” people.
Broken people who have gotten through and healed can offer compassion, understanding and wisdom that others cannot.
Perhaps the most valuable thing about us that we can offer the world is ourselves, real and transparent. Perhaps our mistakes, failures, pain and struggle are more valuable than our successes, because they empower us to have an eternal impact loving and helping others right where they are.
If you hide who you are and what you’ve been through from people, how will they know you are someone THEY can go to when they are hurting or struggling?
I’ve had people tell me I share too much, and they show their disapproval, including judging and condemning me for it. Sometimes they question my motives, or think I’m just saying things for attention. I can’t control what people think or how they perceive my words or actions, so I’m not going to try.
I value sincerity, and despise when people are false and shallow, because they are acting like they are better than others. When people look down on the hurting and suffering, it reminds me of when Jesus confronted the religious leaders in Matthew 23:27-28, where He referred to them as white-washed tombs filled with rotting bones. It also reminds me of Job’s accusers (his friends by the way) who claimed that his suffering must be because he did something that caused him to deserve his misfortune.
As a result, we keep to ourselves and don’t reveal what is going on in our hearts, minds, and lives, because we fear the judgement and accusations from others. We also want to avoid the embarrassment of appearing weak or not meeting up to the expectations others place on us. This leads to isolation and loneliness, even when surrounded by people, within our own families, friendships, and churches. I’m sure this has led to the downfall of many in positions of leadership.
There have been countless times that someone has reached out to me privately to discuss something they were going through, simply because I shared something publicly about my own life or experience. Being transparent opened a door for someone to not feel so alone. It resulted in an opportunity for my pain, struggle, or experience to transform into wisdom and healing for someone else. Transparency builds trust. Because of that, I won’t be silent. I won’t fear what people think. I like helping people, and believe the world would be a better place if there were more “real” people in it.
Helping others is essential to being a well-adjusted human being. Some of us do it in our every day life, with simple acts of kindness, helping at the local food pantry, volunteering at our church, or participating in youth organizations. There is something about helping others that adds to our own feeling of personal self-worth and connection to our community and the world around us. Connection to others is not only an emotional experience, but a spiritual one, and we all need this kind of interaction, just like we need a hug and physical affection.
Those who only engage in “taking” and “one-upmanship” cannot be truly happy, as any relationship is a two-way street, and you cannot experience closeness and development of trust without reciprocal actions and feelings. Although we all have times in life where we may have to focus on ourselves for one reason or another, it is healthy to practice being “others-focused”. This doesn’t just benefit other people, but it benefits you as you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself, and experience feelings of community and making a difference in other people’s lives. If you haven’t previously participated in volunteerism or charitable efforts, this may be foreign ground to you, and you may not know where to start. The key word here is PRACTICE.
First of all, I must agree that being more personally interactive will yield the most benefits, as this causes growth within yourself, and the effects are in real-time. Serving others directly allows you to see how your participation is affecting people and your community. If you can get out of your comfort zone and find somewhere locally to volunteer, it won’t take long before you question why you’ve never done something like this before, and make some new friends in the process!
Supporting charitable organizations financially can also be another way to practice giving of yourself. Perhaps you’ve thought about doing this, but didn’t know where to start, or are wary of which organizations you can trust to be fiscally responsible. Donating locally can be more personally rewarding, as you can see how your donations are improving your own community, and you may feel “safer” giving money to an organization where you can actually see results and believe there is more accountability. At the same time, there are many regional, national and international organizations that greatly need and deserve our support!
If you would like to venture into supporting one of these, I have found a website that offers some essential information to assist you in determining which charity (or charities) you would like to give to. Charity Navigator uses objective ratings to find charities you can trust and support. Their listings offer organizational, financial, and contact information for each charity, rate each one by accountability and transparency, and even provide “expert advisories” for organizations that may have raised some red flags. You can see the programs each organization offers and compare them to see which ones are more suitable regarding what efforts you would like to support.
Regardless of how you choose to start giving, I hope that you find it greatly rewarding, and experience personal growth as a result. It only takes one person to make a difference.