By A. R. Vander Vegt
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

It's the small things

From the Editor

 


As I flipped through pages of the Star-Gazette, eyes peeled for an interesting picture to include in the Historical Reflections section, a headline at the top of the first page caught my eye — “Answers to Teenagers, Where to Go, What to Do.” It was a relatively short column. An editor’s note said the editorial had been going around newspapers across the country.

It starts this way:

“Always we hear the plantive [sic] cry of the teen-agers:

WHAT CAN WE DO?

WHERE CAN WE GO?

The answer is … GO HOME!

Hang the storm windows, paint the woodwork. Rake the leaves. Mow the lawn. Shovel the walk. Wash the car. Learn to cook. Scrub some floors. Repair the sink. Build a boat. Get a job.”

The writer has a lot of other suggestions. From helping the local clergyman, volunteering with the Red Cross or Salvation Army, visiting those who are sick and studying, the column culminates with this: “Your parents do not owe you entertainment. Your village does not owe you recreation facilities. The world does NOT owe you a living. You owe the world something.”


Those are strong words. Any guesses from which year it came from? Hold on, there’s more.

“In plain simple words: GROW UP; quit being a cry-baby; get out of your dream world; develop a backbone not a wishbone; and start acting like a man or a lady.”

Does that narrow down the year for you? It really sounds like it belongs for today’s upcoming generations, right?

This was published in 1963. That’s 55 years ago already.

I found this short column fascinating. I’m a Millennial. I didn’t hear that label placed on me until I went to college, but since then, I have never heard it said in a positive way. We’re the snowflakes, the cry-babies, the delicate flowers — whatever you want to call us. People really want us to believe that every generation before us was a better generation, that they were never so self-entitled or ridiculous.

Personally, I’ve cast a wary eye to that sort of talk. That’s not to say my generation isn’t, at least to some degree, all those things others say we are. It is evocative, though, to observe that my generation is not the only generation to fall into the vices of avarice and short-sightedness. Teenagers apparently were not all too different in 1963.

Whoever originally wrote that column is right, of course. The world really doesn’t owe us anything. That goes for everyone — not just teenagers. The world owes you nothing. It’s difficult to come to terms with that. People who do helpful and good work aren’t owed anything just as much as people who are slothful. Those who are working hard and make a difference in big or small ways usually aren’t doing it in order to earn a return later in life. They do it out of self-forgetfulness and because doing good things is a reward in and of itself.


What I mostly love about this serendipitous column, other than it connects today's generations to previous ones, is the unspoken part of it. The author is calling for readers to be faithful attendants to the mundane. The thought of learning to cook and repairing the sink cause some to immediately zonk out from boredom. Yet someone needs to do it, right?

We constantly grasp after entertainment. For many of us, we are overwhelmed not by noise but by silence. In our moments of quiet, we don’t look for ways to grow as a person. Rather we look to distract and distance ourselves from whatever is happening in our lives. We want to “shut off” our brain — as if our brains were the computers we spend hours at a time staring at.

The truth is we need a lot more people dedicated to the un-fun parts of life. We need those who mow the lawn and rake leaves because we need those who are willing to do good things without expecting a return. To attend the present is to believe in the future.

 

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