Each year, as far back as 2001 or 2002, I have spent the final week of the year between Christmas and New Year planning for the year to come. This year I am beginning a bit early for a special reason. 2020 is the year of new beginnings for us @HomeCrazzyHome.
We make this thing official by getting married.
But those are just the markers. What is most significant is that each of those things offers us opportunities. Chances to do and be more, other things.
Retirement is not about sitting around doing nothing. At least not for us. Retirement is about you controlling your time. The ability to invest it in the things that matter to you.
Oh, but that bodes the question:
What matters to me?
Let’s be frank here, folks. This world is a mess. Schools are failing our little humans. People live on the streets. Our parks and streets are full of litter. Children go hungry. The planet herself is sick, and we are the cancer that is killing her.
It is too much. Too depressing. Overwhelming. More than we want to think about.
So, we look to government to solve our problems. Corporations ought to do better, reduce plastics. Charities should be helping more people.
It is always someone else’s responsibility. Someone else’s job.
Because, of course, we are just one person (two, whatever). What could we possibly do?
I was raised differently. I see things differently. And sometimes I get frustrated, especially living in a different culture.
Let me tell you how I grew up…
I lived in a ‘mill village.’ At the turn of the 20th century, when companies built a textile factory, they also built dozens, perhaps a couple hundred houses around that mill. These homes were sold to their workers. The ‘mortgage’ payment was deducted from pay. What’s more, this provided the company with a stable and reliable workforce. People walked to work. There was a company store. A company doctor. You lived and worked with people you knew. And you took care of one another.
No, I am not naive enough to believe that the company did it out of the goodness of its heart. Prices at that company store were anything but competitive. And the work conditions less than idle. My great-grandfather died of cancer in his early forties. Likely from prolonged exposure to the chemicals that made the stream next to the plant smell funny, even thirty years later when I was a child.
Granted government did not do enough to protect the environment. Corporate greed still meant more than human life.
But it was the people that made a difference.
My great-grandmother, Nanny, worked in the mill the same as her husband. He worked the day shift. She cooked, cleaned, and cared for the children. He came home. They ate dinner as a family. Then she went to work. While he washed the dishes and put the children to bed.
Granted government did not do enough to protect women and families. My Pa-pa Clyde made more money than Nanny. For the same job. And he had better hours. The company treated its male employees differently than the women.
But it was the family that made the difference.
Despite those external inequalities, Pa-pa Clyde and Nanny had a partnership that many couples today aspire to. They worked together to survive, to provide for their children. And they faced things that are unimaginable today.
Nanny told stories of the Great Depression. They kept chickens. Their neighbors had a small garden with potatoes and onions. All winter long both families survived on a diet of fried taters, onions, and eggs. Around payday, they had biscuits with flour, butter, and milk from the company store.
But they shared. These people with so little knew that by pooling what little they did have there would be more for everyone. That is something we have lost today. Most of us don’t even know our neighbors, let alone being willing to share our eggs and taters with one another.
And when one of those hens quit laying eggs, Nanny wrung its neck. That seems cruel to some of my friends. But her name was Bessy. And if you ever heard Nanny talk about her then you knew of the respect that these people had for the circle of life. Something else we have lost today when all of our food comes from the shop.
Growing up, there were no charity shops. There was no need. You either used something until it broke or you passed it on to someone ‘less fortunate.’ We were usually those ‘less fortunate.’ I wore hand me downs. I was delighted to be given the Barbie dolls of a dead cousin.
Maybe that sounds morbid, but I remember that couple well. The wife was Nanny’s niece. They lived in another town, only a couple of hours away. But we saw them less than a dozen times in my life. You just didn’t travel that much. Nanny never drove. And besides gasoline was expensive.
Their little girl had been born with a seizure disorder. As a mother, I had a new appreciation for what they endured as both PanKwake and one of her older brothers also had epilepsy. But this little girls were worse. Uncontrollable, degenerative, eventually leading to her death when she was less than ten years old.
I remember the Sunday when they brought her mother, my Nanny’s sister, and bags of clothes and toys. It was bittersweet for them. Giving away her things. But they knew I needed them and back then it was just what you did.
My Nanny, too, had lost a child. Baby Clyde was her middle child. He was named after Pa-pa. He was less than two when he died of what they called dysentery. We would call it E. coli. The company doctor said he probably got it from the green beans that Nanny had canned. Imagine that. Living your whole life knowing that the food you preserved had killed your child.
There were no ‘food pantries’ growing up either. No demeaning standing in line and telling your plight to strangers. Churches organized ‘poundings’ several times a year, especially at Christmas. The church members would bring food. Then the pastor, deacons, or others would sort things and deliver boxes to families in need. You see they knew who those ‘less fortunate’ were.
We were usually among those receiving a box. I remember well that rusty old can of hominy (whole grits). Nanny no longer attended church because of her arthritis. But neighbors took me every Sunday morning. I would tell Nanny about the food collections and she would send that can. A couple of weeks later when our box was delivered that can was always among the other items.
Like I said, I am not under the delusion that world was perfect. It was not. There was not a single person of color in our neighborhood. The people I loved and who loved me had no compunction about using the ‘N’ word. The homosexual son of the couple on the corner was a sinner condemned to the fires of hell. And the young couple that moved in across the street were considered hippies and potheads, even though he worked very hard to support his family. Intolerance and prejudice were the norm.
But I can still hear Nanny saying…
Terri Lynn, don’t go throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
A good old Southern saying that meant in times of change, don’t discard the good along with the bad.
We have done that. In our search for progress and convenience, we have born out loads of babies.
Instead of that five to ten-minute walk to the mill, the spend hours commuting in cars, trains, or buses. We don’t talk to one another. Hell, when I lived in London, it was considered a ‘sin’ to even make eye contact with the person rubbing their private bits on your ass.
Instead of raising chickens and growing taters, onions, and maters, we go to the store and purchase things grown half a world away by people who often go hungry themselves to feed our first world appetite for more.
Instead of sitting on the front porch watching the sunset, waving to cars you know going down the street, and chatting to your neighbors, we are hold up inside our homes watching YouTube videos on nails and $50K makeovers, or the Kardashians, or shooting people in video games.
Instead of using up or sharing our things, we throw them away and purchase new, often just to keep up with the mythical Jones. At best we recycle them or send them to charity shops.
Instead of sitting down to a meal together as a family, we eat different things, often microwaved in non-reusable plastic containers or ordered on an app and delivered in a polluting car, at different times, and all too often in front of the computer or television.
Instead of couples cooperating in order to survive and provide better for their children, we are fighting one another for supremacy.
And we wonder why depression and suicide are on the rise? Even in our children.
I’m not saying we should go back to those racist, sexist ‘good ole days.’ One thing that age teaches you is…
You can never go back.
What I am suggesting is that we pull some of those ‘babies’ out of the dump. That we begin to examine our lives, as individuals and families. Just as we are doing @HomeCrazzyHome. To thoughtfully consider, what your priorities are, what difference you can and are called to make in this world.
To stop passing the buck to governments, corporations, and charities to save the world. Yes, they have their part to do. But so do I. So does @HomeCrazzyHome. And so do you. As Gandhi said…
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
And if each and every one of us took up that challenge, if we asked ourselves what is my part, and then acted on it, this world would get a lot better.
Then we might even have a better idea of what the proper roles of government, corporations, and charities are. And we might have more wisdom in the choices we make at the ballot box.
But all that begins with planning…with making choices and decisions about what is most important to you.
What are your plans for 2020? A new decade and I hope new dawn for us all.
Goddess bless each and every one!