I Grew Up In a Different Time
Grandma Burton loved telling the stories about the Great Depression. My Grandma created a small business. She mixed a secret concoction of ingredients to make a fly spray for the farmers to use to keep the pesky flies off the livestock. Grandma drove around the countryside in her Model-T Ford delivering bottles of the spray to the farms. The farmers were pleased to see her arrive on her circuit. The American Spirit surrounded me as she told me stories of how hard she worked to purchase the meager supplies that kept her family going during the depression.
The American Spirit, a dedication to work as hard as possible to make our dreams come true, followed me as I grew up. It’s probably the primary reason I refused to go on disability after the car accident. My choice was to clean out the equity in our home to pay the bills during the five years it took me to work my way back to part-time employment and another three years to become healthy enough to work full-time.
A True American Spirit
I mean no offense to the younger generation, but we didn’t consider anything disposable. We recycled our milk bottles. Our food was packaged in glass jars during canning season or put into reusable plastic containers for the freezer.
When something broke, we fixed it. We didn’t consider much of anything to be disposable when I was growing up. If the dryer broke down, someone came to fix it. When the car stopped working, it went into the shop.
I remember my first car after I was married. The floor boards on the front passenger side had completely rusted out. If I had a passenger, they needed to sit in the back seat or hold their feet up if they chose to sit in front. I only needed the car to get me the one mile to my job. Otherwise, I could ride my bike or walk downtown to get groceries.
When Did It All Change?
I’ll never forget the day the computer guy told me it was time to toss my computer and get a new one.
“They’re disposable, you know.” He sounded so matter-of-fact when he suggested that I should buy a new one…problem solved!
Heck, I remember washing out cloth diapers when my first child was born.
Suddenly, one business came out with disposable diapers and we were hooked instantly. Do any of you still wash cloth diapers? I remember how many diapers we went through each day. Can you even comprehend what our landfills look like in the age of millions of disposable diapers?
Today’s most practical business strategy is to create products consumers want in a disposable format. That way, the customer will become accustomed to coming back and purchasing the same product over and over.
Am I the only one who cringes when people use paper plates in my home? We have a sink and dish soap, so I can easily wash dishes. I can’t remember ever complaining about doing it.
Unfortunately, my generation was the first to create disposable products. I was in my twenties when those first diapers appeared on the store shelves, and the television touted their convenience.
We had reusable plastic covers for our leftovers long before they created a plastic wrap.
When my sons were little, they could play their computer games over and over. Today, manufacturers serialize computer games to entice our kids to beg for the next in the series. How about your cell phone? Do you have the newest model with the best camera ever created for a mobile phone?
Modern Consumerism Is No Longer Sustainable
There is a tremendous cost paid when we accept lower quality products. We constantly need to replace them.
First and foremost, this mentality affects our disposable income. Instead of saving money, we update and upgrade those things we already have. Once the money runs out, we still go out and buy items of convenience on our credit cards.
In addition to the monetary costs incurred by our attitude that everything is disposable, the environment also pays a steep price.
Our landfills are exploding with the disposable products we toss out every day. At our house, we recycle everything the city allows, but the garbage truck still comes every week to pick up the excess trash.
I spent two hours trying to save a pair of shoes today. When was the last time you went to a shoe repair shop? (Back when we were kids, we wore hand-me-down shoes which already had new soles or heels put on them at the shoe repair shop.)
Try as I might, I finally had to toss the broken shoes in the trash. There was no way I could convince myself that my idea and super glue wouldn’t unravel and cause me to fall and damage my new hip. I cringed when I threw them away. It’s not how my family raised me.
Our American Spirit
I’m always amazed at the amount of trash I see along the roadways in Mississippi and Wisconsin each year.
When did we stop teaching our children about carrying a trash receptacle in the car? We always had one when I was a kid.
The highways were brand new after WWII, and we were so proud of our ability to move people and goods on our newly installed roadways. Now, people treat them as their garbage cans. (Economy in The 1950’s)
The U.S. put a man on the moon because one man had the courage to say out loud that we were going to do it. That’s the American Spirit in its truest form. Everyone rallied and made the dream possible.
We are so much better than the displays of self-gratification I see each day. When I was a kid, we were the leader of the free world. We weren’t considered bullies. No, we were valuable allies.
You and I are the hope of this great nation.
It’s time to stand back for a moment, take a deep breath, and make a commitment that starting now, we can strive to do better.
That kind of dedication requires us to work together for the greater good.
Isn’t that what we’ve believed in since we were little?
How do you define the American Spirit?