Friday, October 5, 2012

Sometimes The Hard Lessons Are The Best Lessons

Irene Dunne
(1898-1990)
I love old movies.  I was home yesterday afternoon, and a little bored, so I found an old movie on TCM.  It was a classic, but I'd never seen it before.  It was Love Affair, made in '38 with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer.  I never cared much for chick flicks, old or new, and I always thought that was a chick flick.  As it turned out, I really enjoyed it.

There was a scene in that movie that got me thinking though.  Irene Dunn is on a passenger ship, and she sees this little boy about five or six who was playing on the stair railing on the ship--I always do the math, and if that little boy is still alive today, he'd be about 80 years old today. 

Anyway, it's pretty easy to tell what that little boy is thinking.  That the little boy is getting ready to ride down that banister (who hasn't done that), and Irene Dunne stops him--I don't remember the exact lines, but it went something like this:

Irene:  Whoa, stop!  You're going to hurt yourself.  You know, when I was a little girl, I broke my leg.

Little Boy:  How is it now?

Irene: (looking down at her leg) My leg?  It's okay.

Little Boy: So why are you griping at me?
He'd made a good point, and Irene lets him go, and it made me laugh. 

Attitudes have certainly changed in the last 75 years.  They've changed in the last 40 years--since I was a boy that age.  It seems to be my generation that has changed things.  We work so hard today to make sure our kids are protected and sheltered from all the pain and learning we went through. 

When I was a kid, we didn't have bike helmets.  And we lived.  When I was a kid we played on monkeybars built over asphalt pads (so we wouldn't get muddy, but that definitely encouraged us not to fall off, and you only have to fall off once to learn that lesson, and most of us did).  And we lived.  We played on teeter totters (and not the way they were intended).  And we lived.  At any given time from the time I was in first grade, until about the eighth grade, at least one kid in the class was wearing a cast, was on crutches, had stitches, or a black-eye.  We played games and there were winners and losers--and nobody got a prize for "participation."  It made us want to win.  It taught us about competition.  And we didn't have a "mercy rule" in Little League.  I remember games going on forever, until a coach finally decided enough was enough, and tossed in a towel.  That's how my generation learned the important lessons in life--at the chalkboard, the ball diamond, the playground, and the classroom.

And we all learned how to deal with confrontation, too--the hard way.  There were always bullies--there was always a kid bigger than you.  I remember hating that ride home on the school bus.  There was one kid that never got tired of picking on me.  I was terrified of him. He was twice my size, and two years older.  He'd take my hat and throw it out the window.  He'd steal my book bag, and toss my books around.  One day, I remember getting home with only one shoe, and the bus driver putting the bus in park and going back and retrieving that shoe for me so I could walk through the snow to my house, as the bully and his minions laughed.  But one afternoon on the ride home, I'd had enough.  He reached over the seat to grab my book bag, and I punched him right in the mouth.  That would get me expelled today, but it was a different world then.  It wasn't the last bully, but it was the last time that particular bully ever picked on me, and I learned more from that experience than any other lesson I learned in school that year--because that was a lesson about the real world.  There's always that defining moment.  That was my first, but I've talked to my old friends in years since, and it seems like we all had one we'll never forget.

Sometimes I wonder if we're doing our kids a favor by being so over-protective of them.  I wonder if these zero-tolerance rules on bullies is a good thing.  I wonder if giving trophies for "participation" is a good idea.  I work in a college, and I see these kids raised in this new world every day.  They have developed no skills in dealing with conflict--and whether we like to admit it or not, we can make all the rules we want to about it in school, but there are always going to be bullies out in the real world.  We need only look at our two year election cycle to realize that there is no "zero-tolerance" rules in the real world--every two years, we're treated to a barrage of bullying between candidates.  What are we going to do in a few years when our kids are running for these offices, and have no experience in dealing with adversity? 

Are we doing our kids a favor by protecting them from learning the same lessons we did?  I don't think so.  Shouldn't we be teaching our kids to stand up and be strong instead of trying to remove all the obstacles that they'll learn the most valuable lessons from?

I was already thinking about that old movie yesterday when the Presidential debate came on last night.  It all came together.  Here we have a President that has never been properly vetted, and never been asked a tough question by the press.  Had written two biographies and won a Nobel Peace Prize before he'd done anything of note?  He never done many press events, and when he does do interviews, he usually selects "friendly" venues like "Dave Letterman," "The View," "Sixty Minutes," and "Entertainment Tonight."  He picks those because they don't ask tough questions--in fact, he'll visit with the ladies on "The View" instead of meeting with world leaders at the United Nations.  He's our first President in history to be protected and sheltered by the media itself--and they never run out of excuses for him.  And how has that worked out?  One thing that Democrats and Republicans have agreed on since the election in 2008 is that the President wasn't up to the challenge last night.  And the Democrats have been harder on him over his performance than the Republicans have been.  But a few continue to make excuses for him--like Al Gore.  It was altitude sickness.  He was, afterall, over 5,000 feet above sea level.  Really?

Perhaps there is a lesson here my generation could learn about raising kids from our parents and grandparents.  Instead of sheltering and protecting our kids from the adversity of the real world, perhaps we should prepare them for it, by letting them learn a few lessons the hard way.  It's hard.  We don't want our kids to go through those same things we did--but how else will they learn the real lessons that life teaches?

Growing up was tough for me, but it definitely prepared me for all the comments and emails I'll get about this post.  So fire away.  I'm ready. 

~TEC 

3 comments:

  1. I got an email yesterday--let me clarify. I wasn't wrong about the movie. "Love Affair" was made in '38, and was remade in '57 with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr as "An Affair to Remember." That was the movie that played such an important role in the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie "Sleepless in Seattle." But it is the same story. I've never been a big fan of remakes, and in this case, I think that bias is supported--I think the original '38 movie with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer was much better.

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  2. Bro. Creason,

    I've followed your blogs for a long time. As with all Masonic events, gatherings, and literature, I prefer my Masonic blogs separate from politics. I think your audience would appreciate a fair warning if you are going to make a habit of expressing political opinions on your blogs.

    However, politics in your blog post aren't my main concern though as you are more than entitled to your own opinion on your own blog. My concern is the stereotypes and assumptions made in this blog post at the expense of the younger generation... my generation... the Millennials.

    I can assure you that I, and my fellow Millennial peers, grew up with the same bullies and other "life lessons" that your generation had to contend with, despite no-tolerance bully policies and participation ribbons. I disagree with the assumption that my generation has "developed no skills in dealing with conflict". I can assure you that conflict resolution is not a skill set exclusive to your, or any generation. As my wise mother-in-law regularly says: "You know what you do when you ASSUME... you make an ASS of U and ME!" Please don't make assumptions about any generation that alienate fellow brethren like myself.

    You claim that you're worried about the ability of my generation to lead in the future. Well we're equally afraid that your generation is going to screw it all up before we even have our chance at taking the reigns. Since you're afraid of how we'll run the country, are you equally afraid of how we'll run the Fraternity? As a Millennial generation Mason the numbers of my peers joining Freemasonry is a large concern of mine. Attitudes like the one you pose here are precisely what turns my peers off from Freemasonry. Why would they join an organization where prominent members question their generation's leadership abilities. An organization like that will surely not be willing to try new ideas or new philanthropic projects. An organization like that would also surely not trust this unworthy generation with the centuries-old secrets of the craft. Just how do you think the Fraternity will survive without these very Millennials?

    Your post reminded me of a joke: "How many Masons does it take to change a light bulb?... Four. One to change the bulb, and three to talk about how they used to change light bulbs back in the old days."

    Stereotypes and assumptions never made the world a better place. Please don't make assumptions about myself and my peers.

    Sincerely,
    "Millenial" Bro. Colby Moorberg

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  3. Thanks for your comment. If you've followed me for awhile you know I don't mix politics in very often--probably think twice about it if the urge strikes me again. By the way, you're the only one brave enough to comment publicly, but I sure got a ton of email--it wasn't a popular post to say the least. But it is a concern of mine that we aren't preparing our kids very well for the "real world." I see it every day. I've been a business manager for twenty-five years, and this youngest generation does concern me. And I'm not as old as you probably think (I'm 45)--I got my first management job at 19, in a world dominated by those two or three decades older than me. I was able to hold my own against the "old boys club," but it sure wasn't easy, and believe me, it still exists, and that's where my concerns lay. I have a 22-year-old daughter, and a five-year-old daughter. My generation hasn't really taken over yet--in a few years maybe my generation will come fully into play.

    I have no concerns about the future of the Fraternity, however. The kinds of men our Fraternity has always attracted, and still does, are exceptional. Two of the Midnight Freemasons contributors (another site I manage) are Millenial Freemasons, with exceptional ideas and perspectives (which is why I recruited them). The kinds of men Freemasonry has always attracted are freethinkers. They come to learn, they come to grow, they come to contribute, and they learn leadership skills by doing it, rather than learning about it from a book, or in the classroom. That's exactly what we need more of. I don't have a bias against Millenials--in fact, I think more should join, because I believe they'll get something out if it they won't get anywhere else. In fact, I've been working for several years to get more young men involved at the college where I work, because I think what we have to offer they can't really get anywhere else. And it's something they need.

    In fact, one of my mentors in the Craft is a man closer to your generation than mine. I've been following him around this Fraternity since the day I met him eight years ago. Few men have impressed me more, or had more impact on me than he has, and he was in his early 20s when I joined (and I was in my late 30s). He was involved in all three of my degrees, and helped raise me a Master Mason. He's been Past Master of two lodges, Secretary of one. He got me involved in the Scottish Rite, then the York Rite (he's a member of the Grand Line now). And few moments have been more important to me than the day he installed me as Master of my lodge. One of my most prized possessions is a photo of him and I--he's handing me the gavel. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't have been as enthusiastic as I am, or gotten as involved in the Craft as I have, and I would have never written my first book. The course of my life wouldn't have changed as dramatically as it has over the last eight years since I become a Mason. And I think he just passed his 30th birthday.

    Sometimes I like to shake things up... at times I fall into a rut. Obviously our Fraternity is smarter than some its members--even some of the "prominent members" as you put it. Since 1717, when our Fraternity first hung its shingle out, there's been a rule about discussing religion and politics. I've never considered this a "Masonic" blog--it's an author blog linked to my website. But perhaps I should. I do write more often than not about Freemasonry and Freemasons. You, and many others, have indicated perhaps this is the wrong direction for me to take. So noted.

    Thanks for your contribution--you never get too old to learn something. And I appreciate it.

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