Monday, May 07, 2007

The ‘Greatest Generation’ started with families

There is no time in personal schedules anymore.

Experts point to the divorce rate, the drug crisis, the downward trend of church attendance, the amount of family quality time per day and the crime rate and it would be too easy to be cynical.

But, the fact remains that people make the time for what is important to them. If family and relationships were all that important to people then I think people would make the time.

Jobs are perilous these days, and there are darn few of them. The private sector has become a study in ‘Darwinism meets sheer luck of the draw’ and there is little security out there. If someone was looking for something to feel bad about then all they have to do is pick up a newspaper and they are good for the rest of the day. Yet, our personal challenges can be much more difficult to surmount than any strong of ‘bad news headlines.’

During the 1950s, society itself revolved around the nuclear family. Saturday was a time when families spent the day together, whether it was at home or somewhere else. Many places did not open on Sunday, because families were at church. The workday actually ended at 5 p.m. and 40 hours was about what anyone could do and spend any amount of quality time with their spouse and children. The idea was that there are some things more important than making money, and though money was important so was holding together families and communities.

My organization is about as ‘family friendly’ as any of them are these days. I am proud of the fact that the employees working at Courier have rarely missed those important school plays, soccer games or parent-teacher conferences on our account.

But the actual work of creating homes, and not just residences, comes with the individual. I am at least as guilty as the next person of putting work ahead of home more than I should have. The excuse was that I was working toward something. In working toward something in the future, though, and not concentrating on what someone already has brings a hazard. Because someone can work so hard that the home they are working toward in that future is actually a residence for one. Being in a family is a team event. Like any other team, miss more than your fair share of practices and games and the team moves on without you.

The balance between work and personal lives is an all-important level. As frightening as the private sector is today (and it is), without family and the support there all the work in the world isn’t worth a nickel. But without enough nickels to make the bills, the best of families can stretch and fail. The truth of balancing work and personal lives is a hard one, and it is a narrow road. Community helps in creating a sense of well being, and the neighborly relations our fathers or grandfathers had with the people on their block is perhaps too much for a private sector that begins its needs at 40 hours per week from people.

Yet somehow, some way the critical balance between making a dollar and making a life has to be there or neither endeavor is going to be worth all that much.

“The Greatest Generation” was indeed great because those people knew how to work together, live together and how to attend to business and home with some sense of order. The rules have changed, without a doubt.

But there will not be another “Greatest Generation” without husbands and wives sustaining strong relationships, building solid families and those family units creating productive, concerned communities to be a support system for the towns we all live in.

Everything begins and ends with families. And families begin and end with the investment of time and energy. This isn’t news to anyone, but there’s at least no harm in a reminder that may make people pause long enough to consider if they are doing everything they can to safeguard the most important investment, which is not in their portfolio, but is inside their home.

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