May 8, 2015

What Made them the Greatest Generation and can We Be Better Too?

As we mark the 70th anniversary of V-E Day it is worth thinking about some of the traits of those we call the “greatest generation”. Both of my grandfathers worked in critical support roles for the war effort resulting in neither of them joining the military and directly participating in the war. My dad’s father worked for the rail road, and my mom’s dad worked at the large open pit copper mine in the Salt Lake City area.
I found this story in the USA Today this morning. It is a great tribute to a father who did serve and should be honored: Voices: My dad was a fitting member of the "Greatest Generation". I particularly liked the points where the author recounts her dad saying “I’ll do this for you”.

I don’t want to be too simplistic in my assessment, but I feel that attitude was very common in that generation, but is being lost as we move further away from those times. I mentioned my grandfathers not serving at the beginning of this article – they and many others of that generation had that attitude too. Those were times that neighbors knew each other and watched out for each other. They seem to have truly felt, and showed, a love for one and other and a desire to help and serve each other.

I was honored last weekend to meet an elder gentleman and have a brief conversation with him and his wife. I learned that he had just celebrated his 95th birthday and that he had served in both World War II and in the Korean conflict. His wife proudly let my son and I know that he had retired from the US Army as a full Colonel. He still looked fit and full of life, she was bent over and walking slowly with the help of a walker. I met him as he was serving her, helping her into a restaurant.
We met Colonel “Pete” and his wife as I was rushing out of a restaurant. I had taken my youngest to eat after his baseball games and I was late for a meeting for a service trip that my daughter, wife and I are going on later this year. I was in a hurry and walked past them as I was heading for the truck. They were about 10 yards from the door to the restaurant. My son stopped and held the door open for them even though they were a ways away and moving slowly. When I stopped Pete and I began to talk.

It was a wonderful experience to meet him and learn a little about his life and his family. It was great to see his wife so proud of the man she had married so many years before. My son gave me an opportunity that I would have just rushed by. Colonel Pete, I did not get his last name, was very impressed by my son performing that little act of service, simply holding the door open. He commented on what a fine young man he must be.

I must admit that nothing makes me more proud of my children that to hear people comment on how polite and caring each of them are. They excel at many different things and I am proud of them for that. But every time I’ve heard a teacher in parent teacher conferences talk about how they treat others I am filled with pride. I believe that is what really counts, that is what show’s their true character.

I’d like to know what the world would be like if more of us, more often took time to meet and serve strangers in our daily activities. It is so easy to be in a rush today. It can cause us to miss great opportunities. I may never see or talk with Colonel Pete or his wife again, but my life is better for the time I did. I challenge you to seek out opportunities in the next week to meet and serve someone. It may change their life, and I believe it can certainly change yours! Let’s try to emulate some of those traits that were so well demonstrated by our “greatest generation”

What traits do you see in others that you believe emulating would make us better?

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