If you watch the news for very long, you see that some of our problems might possibly stem from us demanding rights that we want for ourselves and sadly, much at the expense of others.
I wrote recently about simpler times and as I have been perusing family stories and articles of late, I observe that there were also many hardships, heartaches and tons of self sacrifice.
One family member was born in the late 1800’s and raised in the Appalachian mountains. His memories of his mother cooking everything over an open fire, his father dying slowly of a malignant tumor, pushed him into being a responsible young man at a very early age.
When he watched his mother raise her family with the barest of necessities, he was determined that he would try to earn enough money to help her life be a bit more comfortable.
He took jobs as a ranch hand, railroad crew and telegrapher and for a season, lived in a dugout. He always looked after his mother and sent money back to her whenever he could so that she could eat and eventually, even travel to see relatives.
He commented in one of his memoirs that he didn’t have time to sow wild oats, he was too busy trying to stay alive.
I have often wondered if all of our modern conveniences, welfare programs and abundant wealth haven’t contributed to our suicide rates and many addictions. There is something to be said for having to work so hard to earn a living that there is no time, thought or money to do anything that might cause bodily harm. People were too busy just trying to stay alive and care for their loved ones.
A man knew if he killed himself, his family may die as well.
When an accident or death did occur, neighbors pulled together to help each other out because there was no government aid.
This same relative lived for a season in west Texas. He stated that everyone in that wild country got along just fine as long as one was willing to work hard and stay honest.
He spoke of wanting to buy some mules from a neighbor 30 miles away.
When he arrived at the neighbor’s house, meeting him for the first time, he was immediately brought in to eat a fabulous meal. After he took his pick of the mules he needed and offered to sign a note in agreement that he would pay for them once he had earned money from picking cotton, he was told that he didn’t need a note, the man would plan on the pay coming in the fall.
Later, when asking his Uncle what would happen if he took the mules and never showed up to pay for them, he was told, “well, that is what the big mesquite trees are out here for, along with a rope.”
A man was expected to keep his word and there were watchful eyes to make sure that happened!
It was not uncommon for a family to have eight to ten children and lose at least half of them or more to disease and accidents.
Every child was wanted and the greatest fear was when one of them came down with a fever. Diphtheria, Cholera, Measles, you name it, could be a death sentence in a matter of weeks, days or sometimes hours.
Don’t think these people didn’t grieve as hard as we would just because death was so common. Due to such hard lives and lack of ‘stuff’, relationships with people were their greatest joy.
Imagine the knowledge that childbirth often resulted in the loss of the child, mother or both and that living to a ripe old age would be possibly 60 years at the most. Your average person back then would not be thinking of ‘assisted suicide’ or abortion even if it was an option, but rather, how can we help keep each other alive given that a long life is hard to come by.
They valued life on moral grounds and as a matter of faith.
Most of the people didn’t pursue careers for self satisfaction, but they worked jobs to survive.
Self focus and pursuing empty pleasures as a hobby was a commodity few of them had time for.
Their biggest pleasures came from simple tasks, such as planting cotton and throwing in some watermelon seeds along the way.
On a hot summer’s day, when they were harvesting the cotton fields, there was a reward when they would come upon the ripe watermelon, bust it open and have enough refreshment to revive them in continuing their task.
The good old days weren’t always good in circumstances, and obviously had their share of evil doers the same as any generation.
However, when I read their stories, I see a people full of faith, honesty and a strong work ethic.
They selflessly poured themselves out for their family and neighbors, realizing that they were much better together.
If we look back we may see the very things that we need to look forward to in order to make a difference in this generation and in all the ones to come.
It seems to have worked so well back in the day but for now, it appears that we have somehow lost our way.