I’ve written here before about the generation of men and women who came before my generation – the folks who lives through the Wars 1 and 2, the Great Depression, the 50’s and 60’s and all the changes in them. I’ve written about their sense of responsibility – about how the men of that generation went to work and worked every day of their lives to support their families, rarely pausing to think to themselves if they could be happier doing something else. Women pulled alongside of them, either running the home or working or both, working often as a team, focused on the end prize that their children would be better off than they were. Or that we’d live in a world free from terror and war.
It hasn’t worked out quite that way. In my family, some of us are better off in wealth, most of us aren’t. We are all asking ourselves about our lives. My children, at least, look at the rat race and wonder what it’s all for. We’ve all been told that we are small and insignificant in the scheme of things, and yet we are big enough that we must make a contribution. Unlike our elders, we fight this, requiring a happy life as well as a dutiful one. We chant about work-life balance and all of that while we overwork and push ourselves to depression and anxiety. We don’t have the certainty of our convictions, as our elders did. It makes for a troubling, wobbly time. Every choice becomes on we have to think through, every job is on a road ever upwards, every day is decided on what we can accomplish through it, or buy at the end of it.
Just being feels wrong. And maybe, just maybe, it is wrong.
We all have skills that we should bring to bear on the needs of our fellow wo/men. That should is the tough word. We’re told it’s a wrong word, that should just makes us feel guilty and doesn’t make us move forward – saying we should do something doesn’t mean we will. I should go to the gym every day, for example. I go rarely in actuality, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. But we are surrounded by shoulds – the ones we give ourselves, the ones we have given to us by others. Are they all wrong?
I don’t think so. I think we do have unique gifts we have an obligation to use to make the world a better place. Even if we’re tired or we don’t want to or we wish we could stay home, bundled up against the weather. Sometimes, it stinks to have to do these things. Sometimes we also take too much glory from our commitments, thinking we are the only ones who can do thus and so properly. It’s hard to walk the middle line between what we feel we must do and what we feel needs us and only us.
We’re heading for a tough time, perhaps another depression. So many are out of work, living in poverty, struggling, living in war zones or temporary shelters. We need to step up, like our elders did, and take on the yoke of hard work. We need to staff organizations like Kiwanis and Rotary and work at food banks and work to eradicate food banks and make sure everyone can afford to live with dignity.
We need to live with dignity, giving up on those wonderfully tempting seven deadly sins and putting our backs into living well, not wealthy. We really should.