I have listened to my uncle tell stories about my grandparents and great-grandparents. With fifty of us gathered around, he has shared bits and pieces about the lives of our ancestors. Their lives revolved around survival. When my Grandpa Hamlin was five years old, his father gave him a rifle and five shells and told him he better come back with five animals or there would be trouble. And I get bent out of shape when Facebook acts up.
Making sure there was enough wood to make it through winter, knowing how to skin a deer (Get this, my mom taught my dad how to do skin a deer), leaning on family when times are tough, learning a new trade when the old one – your one expertise – disappears, not worrying about skin cancer or whether or not you were going to make the plane out of Chicago — life was certainly different a mere sixty-five years ago.
When my mother was eleven, my grandfather took her deer hunting. It began to snow, so my grandfather found a tree with some cover where he left my mom. He left her – alone – with a shotgun, he told her to stay put and shoot anything that came near her. She stayed put for five hours as a storm blew all around. I asked if she had been afraid, she said matter-of-factly, “No, I knew how to shoot,” then she thought for a minute and said, “I was only afraid that he would not be able to find me because it was snowing so much, I was afraid the snow would cover me.”
A Complicated Life
How is it that our lives have become so complicated and so wrapped around what we precieve to be important that we forget how hard and yet simple it once was? I don’t worry that I won’t be able to shoot enough dinner to feed my kids. I never worry that the rain will prevent me from hanging the sheets out to dry. I haven’t yet wondered how I could keep enough sugar to last through the winter.
We discovered after reading my grandfather’s diary that he didn’t have his first banana until he was thirteen years old and he so loved the way it tasted. It is unthinkable to me to have not tasted a banana until the age of thirteen. The lives we now lead, while seemingly simple due the technology we wrap around us, are not simple at all. Maslow’s Heirarchy has changed slightly. Survival in the past is not the same as what we face today. I am thankful to not have ever stood by a snow-laden tree with a loaded shotgun for five hours, but making mortgage payment today is no simple task either.
Each time / era has had its hardships, each generation its challenges. So, have we gotten tougher or have we lost touch with what is really hard, what is really difficult? I think not. Each generation survives because of resilience and tenacity. As well as, the grace that gets each through – that we either grant ourselves or that others touch upon our shoulders. Toughness has no degrees, only Grace-Laced Tenacity.