Making the World a Better Place
When I was in high school and later, college, my friends and I all thought the establishment consisted of a bunch of rich, old, gray-haired men who sat upon velvet thrones and decreed idiotic and senseless decrees to the all us peons in the world. We were not going to let that continue once we grew up and took the reigns. We were going to make the world a better place.
Yesterday, on the way to have breakfast with an old friend, I stopped at a local gas station/convenience store to pick up a copy of “USA Today”. While I was parking in front of the store, I noticed a dozen or so metal posts – filled with cement – placed strategically between the store and the parking lot so as to prevent crazed, mentally irregular drivers from intentionally – or unintentionally – driving vehicles into the store and hurting people (and let’s not forget property).
Being that I’m getting old, these bright-red concrete-filled metal posts remind me that we did not make the world a better place. We failed. Not only didn’t we make it a better place, we seem to have made it a worse place – but that jury will always be out on that. I sure don’t recall businesses and public building being targets of crazed drivers when I was a kid. No big red poles back then.
Looking back, it seems generation was more worried about bicycle helmets, car seats, seat belts, and not offending anyone than making the world a better place. If the establishment we grew up with was based on golden greed, my generation only made it worse. My generation is full of people who think money will buy anything and so they will do anything for money. I’m not so sure that’s so different than past generations or if it’s just seems so. Maybe it was worse in the age of the Robber Barons… the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Carnegies, Flaglers, Cookes — or maybe there were just fewer people that had more money?
That’s not how it was supposed to work out – we were the generation that beleived in love and peace and the brotherhood of mankind. Peace out, brother! How did that work out?
Not very well. While we the “younger generation” were wearing tie-dyed t-shirts, peace symbols and singing “All we are saying is give peace a chance…”, the war in Vietnam raged on.
And today, we live in the world that was molded by my generation; we could have made it better, but we didn’t. I’m wondering if today’s young people, once they pull their heads out of their smartphones, want to make a better world too? The only things it seems my generation changed successfully was making it a societal taboo to offend someone – even if what we’re saying is true. Our grand-kids eat more healthy foods in school than we did. They wear bicycle helmets and seat belts to keep them safe, but we can’t keep them safe in school.
When I was in high school the older folks were rolling their eyes and sighing “What is this generation coming to?” But that’s because the boys were wearing long hair and girls miniskirts. But one thing I never worried about in school was getting shot at… and killed. That came later. You had the draft board to help you with that.
My high school and college days coincided with the Vietnam Back then, many people were in an uproar – the ones who opposed the war versus the ones who supported it. But it certainly was not the era ofIt was not all peaches and cream back in then. But I never had “active shooter” drills in school. We had fire drills and we had tornado drills… and we protested the lousy food in the cafeteria -mostly just a puerile attempt to rattle the elders.
It is hard to admit this, but I have to: My generation planted the seeds that led us to now. Controlling guns won’t control killing – I think people are getting out of control. Maybe it’s because there is a widening gap between the rich and the poor. Maybe it’s because once powerful majority we called “the middle class” is slowly evaporating like a nightmare in the morning sun.
Televsion shows reflected not so much our middle class values as what society so much wanted us to be. If you’re old enough to remember “Ozzie & Harriet”, “Leave it to Beaver”, “Father Knows Best”, “My Three Sons”, “The Donna Reed Show”, then you’ll remember halycon days where dad always wore a tie and mom a dress at dinner. And everyone ate together at the kitchen or dining room table. And only on Saturdays could dad toss the tie and mom exchange the dress for slacks or “Bermuda” shorts.
That was the American ideal. But it doesn’t work that way anymore. In every one of those shows, mom stayed home and kept the house and made dinner; dad made the money. And dad would come home from work and expect dinner on the table. Those the good old days. Really? I’m sure many ladies would not agree with that.
But making the world a better place is something we all want – and want to do. It’s just not that easy. Maybe it’s not the generation – maybe it’s just human nature. Maybe the world will only be a better place when it gets so bad even the rich and powerful feel down and out, oppressed and powerless. Maybe only then will it really change.
One thing for sure – my generation didn’t make the world a better place, even though we all thought we could. At least it does not seem so to me. Millions are still starving, people are still dying in wars, kids are getting shot in schools, and greed still seems to rule in so much of our world. And as long as money equals power, I don’t see how much is going to change.
But there is a way we can help to make the world a little better place. Yes, it is true. No matter how old or young you are, you can make the world a better place right now. Today, you can do one nice thing for someone you don’t know – a stranger. Do something nice because you want to. I am pretty sure they won’t expect it. I bet you that you will put a smile on two faces – the face of the stranger you helped… and your own.
If everyone of us did one good deed or one kindness for a stranger every single day, the world would be a better place in spite of all the bad things going on. Maybe many things are out of our control. Maybe we can never change the way the world is, but each of us can make the world a better place.