On Friday, I interviewed a 94-year-old lady for next week’s newspaper column. I was excited about this interview because I’d heard great things about this woman, and on meeting her I was not disappointed. The article is about her involvement at our local community center, but as I asked questions we strayed into stories from her life. I confess, that’s what I really wanted to hear about.
Her story is unique and fascinating: she moved to Honolulu in the mid-1920s, back to California in the ’30s, and when her mom remarried a traveling showman they traveled the western half of the U.S. with a chimpanzee named the Duke of Wellington (part of her stepfather’s act). She married at 17 (in 1935!) and had four children. She and her husband were married 63 years before he passed away. She told me she’d written and self-published a book about her life experiences, mainly for her descendents. I expressed interest in the book and she is going to lend me a copy, which I’m excited to read.
After the interview, I expressed how much I’d enjoyed meeting her and said, “Lately I’ve been thinking how your generation understands life so much better than us, the younger ones.” I explained that I’ve been thinking about the Depression and World War II and how neither my generation nor my parents’ have had to endure that level of hardship.
She looked at me and said, “I think everyone should go through one week of the Depression.” That quote continues to echo in my mind.
I have felt an increasing awareness lately of the sense of entitlement in our culture. We mistakenly see gifts as rights. We take, take, take, and neglect to give. We are becoming less and less in tune with our bodies and spirits as we spend most of our time staring at electronic toys, immersed in the sub-par reality of the internet.
We are spoiled children. We whine when we think we’re doing without…When actually, we have no idea what it means to do without. Before they’re gone, we should talk to people who remember the Great Depression. Before they’re gone, we should talk to people who remember the sacrifices of World War II.
I’m pretty sure we’ll learn something.