for release October 5, 2001
by Melodie Davis
On Digging Potatoes, September 15, 2001
We introduced the next generation to the joys and trials of digging potatoes today. Somehow it was therapeutic to engage in this earthy work with time to reflect on the horrible events of the week.
It was fitting that since my older two girls are off at college and can no longer help with this fall chore, the next generation -- a three-year-old great niece and two-year- old great nephew-were introduced to the job.
It was fun trying to generate excitement and enthusiasm by squealing with exaggerated delight when the tractor/plow unearthed its gold, so that the children would get excited, too. It wasn't hard for us to be enthused: a bag of 50 pounds of seed potatoes yielded something like 40-45 bushels for our four households, with some to share with others, and a few to sell. I kept thinking, well, if things really get tough this winter, if fighting and war lead to the kind of hardship at home that people experienced during World War II, at least we'll have potatoes. I weighed the possibilities for what lies ahead. I wondered if this heart rending crime, this devastating loss of life, has the potential to shake some of us out of our complacency, and out of our tendency to take so many things for granted.
My generation was formed by the stories of World War II suffering, the deprivation of the Great Depression, the Holocaust. We didn't experience those terrible realities, but our grandparents and parents made sure we heard about them more often than we wanted. I learned recently that my husband's aunts remember their mother sometimes saying she had no idea what she could make for supper (and it wasn't because she was just tired of that daily chore. It was because there was no real food in the house).
Did we grow up appreciating the hardships and sacrifices of our elders? (I suppose a case could be made for an answer of "no," given the events of the 60s). But for the most part we're at least hard workers, intent on making a better life for our children and ourselves.
Today's generations, however, who grew up during the "me" decade of the gold rush 80s and the "whatever" decade of the 90s, may be a little too inclined to take the many advantages, freedoms and wealth for granted. Their idea of hardship is if they don't own a car, or if their computer is more than two years old. Their notion of suffering is if they can't get their hands on a keg for the Friday night party. They may sleep until noon, hang out around apartments or dorms, and then party till dawn. They go off to college with parents footing the total bill and then think they deserve to spend every spring break in Cancun on Dad's purse. They know little of a draft, or, on the other side, of feeling uncomfortable in standing up for beliefs, sacrificing personal pleasures for a larger cause.
Certainly the show of persons-including the college kids-wanting to do something this week to help has been heartening to see: waiting hours in line to give blood, donating liberally to various funds for victims. It is gratifying to see an outpouring of grief, solidarity and profound sympathy for the families of the victims.
Perhaps I was pretty hard on my daugthers' generation above. To be fair, I'm pretty spoiled too. We take water, breath, food, health, cars, smooth transportation around the country-all for granted. We took our safety for granted. We take gathering freely in safe places of worship for granted. I think a lot of us found new meaning in the hymns we sang at church services and special community prayer services after the attacks. For instance the words of old familiar songs, such as in "O God Our Help in Ages Past," were sung with new meaning:
"The shelter from the stormy blast...
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home."
Or from "How Firm a Foundation:"
"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie...
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake
I'll never, no never, no never forsake."
What a promise, the only promise we have: that no matter what happens, even though we walk through the valley of death, God is always with us. Here is one lesson to be learned, at a terrible terrible cost: that we may all learn to take less of life for granted.
For a free booklet, "Finding Strength to Survive a Crisis or Tragedy," write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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