Turn Back the Hands of Time with a Cultural Revolution
One Small Example
“There is something about building up a comradeship - that I still believe is the greatest of all feats - and sharing in the dangers with your company of peers. It's the intense effort, the giving of everything you've got. It's really a very pleasant sensation.”
This past weekend, I was waiting in line for my Saturday morning mocha. It was a beautiful morning, the promise of heat in the air, the wind still and unlimited possibilities were before me. When I got to the counter I placed my order, chatted with my favorite barista, and when served the drink I was told that the police officer who was ahead of me in line had paid for my drink. “Pay it forward” was his message for me.
Home I went, a smile on my face, and then into the garden, where I picked some fresh kale, lettuce, and snap peas. Picking completed, I was back in my truck, back to the barista, who was jubilant when I handed her the garden bounty. “Pay it forward” was my message for her.
There was nothing newsworthy about that morning, no “updates at eleven” or front page news, and yet the ordinary became extraordinary because of the kindness of one man, sworn to serve and protect, willing to go that extra step during his work day.
A moment of reflection followed, for I am a writer, and writers observe, reflect, and then transcribe the events of life for posterity.
How sad, I thought, that a simple act of kindness would seem so extraordinary.
What has happened to our society for this to be the case?
Some of You Don’t Remember
I have waxed poetically about the time of my youth, and I am always careful so that my vision of the past is painted in realism rather than rose-colored distortion. I believe I have been accurate. I believe it all happened as I remember.
I believe that people were kinder to their neighbors, and to strangers, and I believe that small acts of random kindness were the norm rather than an event of such magnitude as to merit an article. I remember our neighborhood quite well, and I do not believe I have misrepresented it. Neighbors looked out for neighbors. Kids were safe, bounties were shared, and when there was illness or tragedy, the neighbors banded together and did what was necessary to help those who had fallen.
There was sharing of fruit, sharing of vegetables, borrowing of tools and laughter across the fences. When a major project was being tackled, there was no need to ask for help, for help arrived without bidding, just friends helping friends with no thought of payback and no expectation of thanks.
I have written about it often, and received many comments from others who remember those days, and invariably the responses are wistful and melancholy in nature, for those times seem to be gone, passed down through the archives along with hoop skirts, Edsels, and soda fountains. And people will say what a shame it is that those days have parished, and boy oh boy, how wonderful a time that was, and we are missing so much in today’s society.
And that all leaves me scratching my head.
Why Can’t We…..?
Let me ask you one very simple question: what is preventing us from turning back the hands of time?
Why do we speak of these things as days gone by, when we could be speaking of them as a new order?
Are we waiting for permission from our government? Are we waiting for someone else to begin so we can follow their lead?
You see, I believe that great movements begin with a single person. Throughout history, massive societal changes began with one individual dreaming of a better way, and then being the instrument of change they so desperately desire. You know I speak the truth. You all, at this very moment, can think of such a change, and you can think of the person who began it all.
So I have another simple question for you: why not you?
And the excuses flood in…..I’m too busy….times are tough….why should I when nobody else is….what’s in it for me….it’s impossible to change modern society…and on and on we go, each excuse adding to the complacency and apathy that infects society today.
Do you need a reason why those simpler days are gone?
It’s really rather simple: we allowed them to disappear.
A sobering truth indeed.
We allowed it to happen.
We complicated the hell out of life. Willy Nilly is as Willy Nilly does. We bought into the American dream, and we worked out collective asses off, and we bought those possessions, and we bought with credit, and the debt rose so we had to work more hours, and slowly the “time with family” lessened, and slowly the interaction with neighbors lessened, and then…..
Times got tough, and when the going gets tough the tough start to fear, then blame, and then the drawbridge is raised and the castle defended, and at that point, my friends, trust disintegrates, and any chance of interacting with others on more than a surface level is gone. So bye, bye, Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the levy and….it sunk.
But we can still salvage it.
So here’s what I want you to do.
Simple Steps to Turn Back the Hands of Time
I’m not looking for a tidal wave. I’d be happy with a simple ripple from each of you. Take a look at the following suggestions and see if you could find time to do a couple of them:
- Eat one meal each day as a family
- Smile at a stranger once each day
- Once a week, make the effort to speak to one of your neighbors
- Spend quality time with your spouse or “significant other” each and every day
- Watch one less hour of television each week
- Every week, reach out to an old friend you haven’t spoken with in a long time
Please note that I am not asking for anything earth-shattering. I know how testy we all get when we are asked to make major changes in our lives, so I’m starting small here. I know, without a doubt, that every one of you could do one of the six things I suggested above, and having done that one thing, you will move closer to the “good old days.”
This Is Important, so Listen Up
Change is constant in life. Helplessness is not. We have watched society change drastically over the past fifty years, and we have grumbled about it, and we have mourned the loss of innocence….but it never occurred to us that we could change things back again.
We not only can change things….we must!
I’m looking for a revolution. Will you join me? Do you miss those good old days enough to take the steps necessary to regain them?
Come on over to Olympia, Washington, and join me in some neighborly love. I’ll get the barbecue out, and we’ll have a cook out with a few million of our closest friends, and after the meal we’ll sit around and get to know each other. It’s B.Y.O.B., but not R.S.V.P, so drop in any old time and you will be welcome.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)