The Lesson Not Learned

By Robert L. Hall

The title of this article reminds me of the famous Robert Frost poem, ‘The Road Not Taken,’ because it points out a singular choice which has been taken that leads to a significant direction in one’s life. And nowhere can it personally be seen, heard and experienced than in the difference between the young and more mature among us. In the last couple of days, I have been the beneficiary of the wisdom and good will of the more senior among us. Several experiences fell together to make it seem like a stream of cars pulled by the locomotive of good lifestyle choices and manners from which I have benefited. And the contrast between the style and outlook of the youngsters and oldsters has been like night and day. First, I had my car that needed to go to the shop. On my day off, I tried to take it into a shop run by a thirty-something crowd. And although I am a regular customer, no room for my car — no sirree, and this is a shop where everything is high-dollar, no break for frequent flyers, no coupons, no discounts, no deals, get lost, keep off the grass… get it? So, I wheeled over to a more mainstream shop run by more experienced people in the trade. Suddenly, there was room — right inside, no waiting, coffee machine working in the comfortable and clean lounge. By some cajoling, I even found out they could offer the high-ender tech assistance that I needed, without the fancy-smansy prices and without body-slamming the modest customer service requests I was making. And, here I almost choke up, at a second story. For I have two friends, who, upon hearing that I need some help with work at the house, volunteered to fix the problem, and that very day came to my home and began ripping up the old and putting in the new model water heater we were in need of, after it went all leaky on me. By the next day, a shiny new one was sitting in it’s place, and I had a bright, smiley face. Now, these men did this because it is quite simply who they are and are products of their times. They will probably chide me for even writing this about them. So what? Some trumpets need blowing. I hesitate to think if it would even occur to the Generation X crowd or the Millennials to do such a thing. Having written this, I’m sure someone will respond by informing me that they have been the beneficiary of a similar good deed by member of the younger generation. And truly, I hope that is the case. But on the whole, it has not been my experience. For those that have been around a while seem to put more stock in loving people and using things, where the more tender seem to put more emphasis on using people and loving things. It is the curse of the materialistic times we are going through. Again, not in all cases, but from general observation, it at least seems to be the case in my personal experience. Two other instances came to my ears this week. One was simply a couple of folks coming by and talking during a break. They wanted to find out about what I was doing, and we cross-questioned each other just to find out more about each other and their routine. In the end we had a mutual friend who all of us upheld and who we thought well of. At the end of the conversation, I was uplifted just from the conversation and knowing more of these two, or our mutual friend, of our similar feelings and notions and also just being affirmed by knowing others like me were working in the same building. It wasn’t the cutting remarks and snide side-words and expressions one hears too much of from those barely out of school where the new math is taught, but cursive writing isn’t, where sex education is actually a course, but when you question them it is apparent that geography and history no longer are. And the art of conversation and ordinary conventions of common courtesy are dead as the proverbial mackerel. Then, the capper: I heard a person of respectable age give some advice which was unprecedentedly honest and straightforward to a figure of authority of the younger generation who was not used to being corrected, but only mollified and yes-sir’d. This shocked the teens and ‘tweens who heard of it into an almost comatose condition.     I thought ‘Glory, Halleluia!” This is why I love older folks. They know the score and let you know about it, too. Will Rogers knew this. He said people learn by three methods: Reading, Observation… and a third style which… well, let me give you just a clue: It involves an electric fence and doesn’t end well. And it also seems to be the preferred method of education of our young. Gotta go.

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