Image compliments of Holly
As Memorial Day is approaching, my thoughts travel back to the Greatest Generation, which was my parents', and to thinking about their stories of the Great Depression and World War II.
Just yesterday, my mom gave me a paper my older son had written back in 1998 when he was in his first semester of college. He had "interviewed" my parents to obtain information for the paper he was writing for his American History class at Kent State. What a treasure this paper is already, as Andy has gone on to not only graduate from seminary and become a pastor, but he recently obtained a Master's Degree in History from the University of South Carolina.
The gist of his paper was that even though two-thirds of our nation was living below the poverty line during the Great Depression, most people, like my parents and grandparents, did what they needed to do to survive everyday life and relied on their core family values, work ethic, and faith in God to see them through the hard times.
I love what Andy said here:
"The Great Depression was not a time of sadness about how little my grandparents had, but rather a time of hard work and thankfulness for what they did have. When it was so easy for the poor to cry, my grandparents did their best to make it a time of laughter. They knew nothing else but being poor. It was a way of life for them. Still, both families had a sense of pride in the hard work that they had to do in order to survive. Wastefulness was never an option, and innovation was a way of life. It was through this pride in their families, strong faith and morals, and hard work that so many Americans survived the Great Depression and managed to remain happy in times of despair."
He then went on to give example after example of the way this attitude played out in their everyday lives, such as this one:
"My grandmother recalled one time during the Depression when their family's dog brought home a loose chicken. This was considered a blessing to the family, and her family was soon asking the blessing over that chicken at the dinner table."
In these current days of economic recession, my husband and I often talk about how we really can't get a grip on what life was really like even a generation or two before us. I don't know a single family that would cook and eat a chicken the family dog just dragged home. I don't know a single child who would be over-joyed to receive a single orange in his Christmas stocking.
One of my father's brothers died unexpectantly in 1935 at the age of 15, in the midst of the Depression. My grandparents had no money for a gravemarker and buried their son in an obscure section of the local cemetery where there hardly seems like there was room to do so. My grandfather made a marker himself out of cement, with a pole in the middle of it that bore an American flag, and carried it to the cemetery in a wagon, a couple of miles away. At some later date another headstone was placed on the grave. No one has ever wanted to remove the original homemade stone.
Every time I visit the cemetery and plant flowers where thirteen family members are now laid to rest, I think and remember. I am filled with gratitude for the heritage that I have, and for the generations now coming along who inherit the same blessings of hope of our faith-filled ancestors. We continue to tell the stories of hard work, perseverence, sacrifice, and faith in God to the next generation. And we look forward to a glad reunion day.
Andy and my mom