I miss the public world I used to inhabit. Perhaps you remember it? Sometimes I think that maybe I just imagined it all. Sadly it seems such a long time ago.
When I was a kid, it seemed as if nearly everyone went to a church or synagogue. My parents’ church grew so large that the people purposely divided themselves by neighborhoods and started six or eight new congregations around town. Now many churches are empty. There are beautiful vacant church buildings for sale all across America.
When I was a little kid, I knew one family whose parents had divorced. By junior high years, I knew of about three families whose parents were divorced. One of my nieces told me years ago that she didn’t have a single friend whose parents were not divorced. Even though I had wonderful role models and knew exactly what I was promising, I failed in my first marriage. The stain of that failure still rests heavily on my heart.
Way back in the dark ages when I was a kid, we were told, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” Mind you, not every kid did that — but nearly every kid heard it.
You didn’t take advantage of your neighbor’s calamity. Should a storm hit, and people fled for safety, you didn’t bash in the windows to steal stuff that you could sell later. Your parents made sure you knew about right and wrong before allowing you to go out in the world. When you screwed up, they jerked you up and told you how the cow ate pumpkin. They didn’t fight your battles for you, and they didn’t surround you in cotton wool so that you never got in the wars. They held you accountable for your actions.
In the world I inhabited as a child, parents, not children, were in charge. Children were taught how to behave politely in public. They weren’t the center of attention, nor were they given free rein. It wasn’t just your parents who did this either. All the neighbors acted like parents too. There were eyes all around. If I did something I shouldn’t do, a neighbor would be sure to either talk to me about it or make sure my parents knew about it.
Fast forward a generation. When I was married, and my husband and I bought our first house, I hired a neighbor boy to do yard work. I knew the boy and his parents. He showed up. I showed him what I needed him to do, and he did it. There were lots of things he didn’t know, but he took direction well and did a good job.
One day he asked if he could bring a friend along to help. He introduced me to the friend, I explained what I would pay them and what I expected for the pay, and they agreed. I paid them, and they asked if they could both come back the next week. I agreed. But while the kids were finishing up the job, the father of the new child pulled up in front of the house, stayed in his car, which he kept running, and told me that the kids were doing a man’s job and that I should pay them a man’s wages.
I politely disagreed. I explained that a grown man doesn’t need to be told that just running the mower around the fire hydrant wasn’t enough. That it was also necessary to remove the foot tall grass around the hydrant that eluded the mower. I explained that I understood first jobs to include learning to be on time, to take direction, to do what you are supposed to do, and to clean up afterward — in this case, to put clean tools back in the garage.
Grown men already should know that. Kids need to learn it. I told the boy’s father that I had no intention of paying the young boy a man’s wages — and if he didn’t like it — he could forbid his son from working for me. The father peeled off at high speed, leaving rubber on the road in front of our house. I guess he was a little perturbed.
But the boy kept working for me for the rest of the summer. He had manners and learned to do a job well. Not bad for a first job. The two boys came to me in the fall and told me that they would be leaving my employ. They had graduated to their second job. They were going to work at the mall as Santa’s assistants — with a raise in pay from what I provided.
Fast forward to another generation, and I sometimes feel like I no longer recognize my country:
- history is being rewritten or erased
- schools, including some colleges and universities, are being used to indoctrinate students
- Christianity is under attack
- peaceful protest seems a quaint relic of the past
- businesses are being destroyed and looted
- police are under attack
- free speech is under attack
Holding a religious or conservative view in the present political climate is often quite costly. Periodically I forget – but I have neither the temperament, courage, nor blood-pressure to fight such battles in the public square.
Thankfully, I have some friends, family, and acquaintances who either aren’t culture warriors, or who choose to tolerate or love me anyway.
What about you? Do you have friends and family with whom you can have civil conversations even when you disagree on matters political or religious? Have you experienced hardship or loss because of the rioting and looting in some of our cities? Are you concerned about the safety and welfare of our first responders? Are you concerned about the current state of schools?