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More lessons from the Greatest Generation

Like many around our nation, I’ve admired the contributions of the group called the Greatest Generation — those who grew up in the Great Depression, fought in World War II, and returned to raise the Baby Boomers. I touched on this in an earlier blog, and last week’s Veterans Day made me think more about what this amazing group of people did, and the lessons they left us.

So, Installment Two of Lessons from the Greatest Generation:

Don’t sweat the small stuff
One woman — married more than 50 years — said the low divorce rate among her generation was due to the hardship they endured, from the depression to the war. By comparison, she noted, many common marital spats seemed inconsequential.

Happiness is more than money
Ever wonder why people from that generation like to tell stories about their youth? Because they were happy times. They had little material wealth, and yet, were still happy. Life was an adventure, not a purchase-driven journey.

Be humble
As much as the generation is asked about its sacrifice – whether supporting the war effort or working extra hours to provide for the family – you rarely hear boastful responses. My uncle, a tank driver in WW II, would shrug when I’d talk about his sacrifice. Despite the contributions, there was never a sense of entitlement.

Family comes first
This generation set the standard for family. They worked hard to provide a better life for their children, and were more involved in the family than prior generations.

Embrace change
Has any generation experienced more change? Growing up, they watched horse-drawn carriages deliver blocks of ice to keep food cold. Clothes were washed by hand and hung on a line in the back yard. Decades later, every home has a car, refrigerator, and washer/dryer. And let’s not forget the shift from pencils and ledgers to computers.

Save money, manage debt
Despite modest wages, the Greatest Generation managed to avoid debt and build a nice nest egg. If something was beyond their financial reach, they didn’t buy it, and cash was king.

Manners matter
Please, thank you, and you’re welcome. This generation knew the importance — and power — of these words.

Your turn. What did you learn from the Greatest Generation?

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