September 2007 - Volume 12, Issue 2
Age and disease may have wracked his body, but nothing could dim the light in his eyes when he told tales of days long passed. In addition to those of my mother, my father's stories presented a detailed account of a personal and a family history. With attentive ears, my brothers and I would listen to his cherished memories told and re-told with such relish that we could not turn away. As with all oral tradition, the often repeated narrations became rooted in our minds. When our parents passed from this life, their history remained. My brothers and I - steeped in family lore - evangelized the younger generation of our family. It is hoped that they too will add their experiences to the body of knowledge that they have received already and convey the love, the wisdom, the fun, the heartache, the struggles, and the achievements of lives lived to another generation. The valuable lessons and experiences of the past continue to reach new ears and touch new minds. How tragic it would be to loose the wit and wisdom of those amazing people of past generations?
The personal remembrances of my parents were not simply a collection of random incidences in their lives, but the story of a nation. The events recounted by my parents occurred in the context of the flood of immigrants coming to America in the early years of the twentieth century. They would witness the Depression, World War II, and so much more. Upon this grand stage, they lived with the effects of the politics and the prejudices of the times. Through their eyes, these happenings were not restricted to chapters in a history book, but viewed from personal experience - street level - from those who were there. They taught us about the value of perseverance, hard work, education, and a strong religious faith. All of these riches were deposited into our hearts and minds.
In today's society, nearly all aspects of learning have been delegated to our institutions. A standardized system of education has many benefits for living and for making a living in the modern world, but the spiritual and emotional strength of the family requires a better source. An awareness of maintaining the unity and a longing for sharing the experiences of generations past and present ought to be an established curriculum in every family.
The charge for the younger generation is to employ and refine in their lives the gifts of the older generations. Part of growing and maturing is attaining a wider and longer view of life. One may assert that the times are so radically different that application of past principles and values are hardly possible. Indeed, the times have changed. Isn't that always the circumstance? Actions and decisions still have consequences. People still laugh and cry, hope and dream, succeed and fail. Human beings have not changed in their basic strengths and weaknesses. Just as one's family medical history provides important health information for one's own well being, so knowledge of the personalities and traits of one's current and past family members may lend themselves favorably to knowing one's self. I hold that the work of designing and redesigning a strategy for a fruitful life is made less burdensome by the contributions of those who have walked a similar path. Assuredly, the teachings and recommendations of past generations are not all wisdom and light. In a similar manner, the perceptions of the current generation are not free of cultural blindness and misconceptions. What I am proposing is that one need not grope in the dark. There are models for comparison and information available for the often daunting task of determining the correct path to follow in life. One can hope that most will seek it.
Of all of the lessons taught to me by the last generation of family members, I intend to keep this one dear: the importance of faith. Much has been said of individuals and of whole societies either possessing or losing their moral compass. A significant portion of the time spent on this earth involves making and following moral decisions. No matter how powerfully or weakly followed, the values professed by one's first teachers - his or her parents - strongly influence one's moral character and become one's guiding light. Recognizing that all things that are a part of this world eventually fade from sight, the portfolio of one's choices in relation to the Truth will be all that one can offer to the God of Truth. The practice, purpose, and the pinnacle of living are described in the relationship with God through the Church. In a world of advancing technologies, increasing discoveries, and evolving lifestyles, the three enduring things - faith, hope, and love - remain. I have been taught by sages and have witnessed their truth for myself. Someone once said, "The truth is too important to be new." From age to age truths are born by one generation to another. I wish that we all learn enough to value that.
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