I hate to sound like a geezer, but people have become wimps, in my humble opinion. It doesn’t take much to close things down these days. For example, we had a snow today. Less than four inches. No big deal, in the old days, yet this morning school was canceled before even an inch had fallen. I rolled my eyes.
I am not resorting to hyperbole, nor saying I used to walk to school and home from school uphill both ways, when I simply say we used to be tougher. We used to get through ‘flu season without closing down businesses and churches and making everyone wear masks, and we used to get through three inches of snow without closing schools. What the heck has happened to us?
Somehow, we seem to have raised a generation of wimpy weaklings. Not that my own kids are weak; (they had to be tough to put up with me). Yet even they are addicted to modern machines, and poke fun at me because I like to do things by hand. Then, when their machines break down, they don’t know what to do. I do. You do it by hand.
Sadly, I am reaching an age where it is becoming increasingly difficult to do things by hand. I have given up on spading my garden by hand, and resort to a rototiller, but if that rototiller breaks, I know what to do. I just can’t do it. I must hire some young person, but soon discover they can’t do it either. They don’t know how to do things by hand.
In like manner I used to shovel snow by hand. Even as a boy my pockets would jingle with silver quarters after a snow, and as years passed I grew so strong I could beat a snowblower down a walkway, and keep up with a snowblower on a driveway. I made some big money shoveling roofs. You can’t snowblow a roof.
I couldn’t beat a snowplow, but I did less damage than they do, and put the snow where people wanted it put, and never rolled up the turf of their lawns. But those days, when I could shovel like a whirlwind, are now in my past. I now own a snowblower. But when the snowblower breaks I know what to do by hand, and can do it, (albeit very, very slowly).
Also in like manner, when it comes to heating my home, I know how to use an ax and cross-cut saw and bucksaw, and how to split with a maul, and how to stack wood so it dries, and how to triangulate the wood in the stove. But I’m old, and therefore purchased a propane furnace, and also confess to owning a chainsaw. But when the economic machinery of home-heating malfunctions, and the price of propane gets too high, I know what to do by hand. And what’s more, I have actually done it, albeit very, very slowly. Under Biden, our economic machinery has malfunctioned, yet my propane bill is half of what it was, though the price has soared, because I slowly, slowly split wood by hand.
The fact old folk know how to do things by hand is not a reason to send them all outdoors. In actual fact, the old folk are supposed to be honored, and pampered, and they should sit around by warm stoves indoors telling good tales full of good advice. (Which is what this essay in fact does.)
The truth is: It is a bad idea to send old folk outside when things get slippery. In the past two days I’ve seen two old-lady-friends get badly hurt, because they needed to venture out. Night before last one slipped and fell and broke her thighbone up by her hip, which will require surgery. Today another hard-working woman was sent home from work at a hospital early through the snow, (not for weather reasons but for coronavirus-panic reasons), and, as she drove home, she hit an icy patch, rolled and totaled her vehicle, and ended up back at her hospital’s ER. Why were these elders out in the cruelty of winter? Why were they not safe at home?
I’ll tell you why, (and be grumpy about it). It is because the young are wimps, and can’t face what is at hand, nor do things by hand.
What is at hand is that the “grownups” are getting old, and it is high time for the young to grow up. But many youngsters are too feeble to do it. I am no longer shocked when it is grandparents, and not parents, who bring children to the Childcare I run, because the parents have problems, (or have actually died due to drug overdoses). And, if parents can’t even care for their own children, how can they care for their own parents as they become grandparents sinking into “second childhood.”
In some ways I suppose old-timers are reaping what they sowed, for when they were young hippies, they did not honor their elders, and said things like, “never trust anyone over thirty.” Now they are over thirty, indeed over sixty, and are learning turnabout is fair play. But please exclude me from that bunch. I was meek and did honor just about everyone older than me, (including some utter scoundrels). If it is true that “Nice guys finish last” I didn’t care, because it just seemed nicer to be nice. Now I cling to a hope given by Jesus when he stated, “He who is last will be first”, because it sure does seem that that the winners, the so-called “elite”, have made a total mess of things.
Things are shutting down for the flimsiest reasons. It doesn’t matter if it is the coronavirus or global warming or three inches of snow, people seem to use whatever as an excuse to be incapacitated. It seems the opposite of a “Can do” attitude.
However, it is amazing what you can do when you have to. In fact, there is a difference between a “Can do” attitude and “Must do” attitude. A “Can do” attitude still has an option to do otherwise, and in a way lives out in the suburbs of theory. A “Must do” attitude has no option because it lives in the slums, and the option is death.
Now that my spoiled generation of Baby Boomers is getting old, the option of death is drawing closer and closer, and it is getting harder to be suburban. The approach of death can turn even a mansion into a slum, and even people who never lived through the “School of Hard Knocks” are facing the “Must do” mentality.
What is that mentality? It is that when things shut down, you can’t just sit around looking hapless. If you remain hapless either you die, or (worse) you find a way to make haplessness pay, which only keeps you hapless: The beggar remains a beggar, the welfare-dependent remains a welfare-dependent, the slave remains a slave. Freedom requires more. The hapless must fight to be something besides hapless.
And what is that thing? Well, in a simple way it is merely to do things by hand. When the machines have failed, what else can you do? When the computers fail, what else can you do?
Allow me to give a simple example from my rural life.
Just because the Public Schools can close for three inches of snow doesn’t let me close my Childcare. Taxpayers pay Public Schools even if they close, but no one pays me if I close. So, I must manage to stay open, which involves moving three inches of snow. However, my snowblower ‘s drive-belt slipped off the pully, so I called my repairman. He informed me his wife had just slipped off the highway and rolled her vehicle and was in ER at a local hospital. (So, I learned about her story.) In any case, there was no way to repair the machine. What option was left?
I suppose, if they could close the schools, one option was to close my Childcare. I could weep and wail and pass the buck. The only problem is that younger people are better at weeping and wailing, and some have important jobs such as snow-removal or patching up people after snowstorm-car-crashes at hospitals. They weep and wail I can’t close; somebody’s got to watch their kids. So, I had to adopt a “Must do” attitude. And this left me with a pathetic option. When the machine breaks, and you must remove snow, what is your option? It is an old-fashioned object called a snow shovel.
I will confess I felt foolish, in this modern age, as I walked out with a primitive shovel to attack the mountain of snow the street-plows had made across the entrance to the Childcare, from only three inches. But I began. The young fellows zooming past in their four-wheel-drive pick-up trucks-with-plows looked at me, an old man with a white beard, incredulously, as I shoveled. But, very slowly, I shoveled. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
I paused often to huff and puff and examine the way the snow fell, or watch an upside-down nuthatch peck at a tree, but I didn’t stop. To keep the toil from causing mental atrophy, I pictured the weather map, which had shown a weak low pressure heading out to sea over Cape Cod. It was a weak storm just sinking past 990 mb, nothing like the bomb between Cape Farewell on Greenland and Iceland, which had bombed out to an amazing 936 mb, a lower pressure than most hurricanes.
Now, if we had a storm bomb out like that off Cape Cod, we’d have a reason to close schools, but this dinky little thing? I watched the snow lazily drift in the wind, noticing the wind was shifting from the northeast more to the north. With Hudson Bay finally frozen, we’d get our first single-digit temperatures (Fahrenheit) of the winter, but the wind wouldn’t howl. In fact the snow burdened the trees, untroubled by winds. A nuthatch flew to a twig and dislodged a small avalanche of powder, bringing back a mood.
I reminisced, recalling a walk I shoveled as a boy in 1963, and the face of a person I haven’t thought of in years. But I kept shoveling.
Two hours passed. It’s amazing what you can do, when you have to. I’d cleared the drive’s entrance, and up the drive past the Childcare’s front gate and into the parking area.
Just then a thundering diesel pick-up truck pulled into the space I’d cleared. It was a child’s father. I informed him his kid hadn’t shown up. Hadn’t his wife told him? He said he knew, and it was a big mistake to keep the boy home, because his wife worked at home and couldn’t get her work done with the rascal bouncing off the walls, so they’d decided to chuck the kid outside, but couldn’t chuck the kid out in his pajamas, so first the dad had to retrieve the child’s snowsuit, which had been left at our childcare. He bopped inside and came back out with the snowsuit, and then, as he left, and because his truck had a plow, he dropped the blade with a clang and plowed a path to the exit. Then he backed up and did a second swipe, pneumatically tilting his plow to spill snow to the left, and then backed up and swiped a third time, spilling snow adroitly to the right. Then, with a jaunty wave, he drove off.
I weakly waved back. The man’s random act of kindness had, in three minutes, done the work my feeble shovel would have needed another two hours to do. Even as I weakly waved I muttered, under my breath, “What a show-off.” Then, just to show his machine did not diminish what my hands-on attitude had done, I walked about tidying up around the edges, muttering how messy plows are. However I confess I did feel a bit diminished. I would have had something to brag about if I had shoveled the entire lot, but he’d stolen my thunder. But not all of it. I had kept the place open; his mercy had only made my mercy easier.
I got over my muttering. As I drove back home I decided I actually could manage to be glad I didn’t have to shovel another two hours, and could even be grateful for the young man’s kindness. I got to sit by my fire, which is what old people are supposed to do. So maybe not all young people are hapless, (which disproves my original premise).
After all, if he hadn’t been merciful, I wouldn’t have the two hours it has taken me to write this post. And this post? It my mercy for roughly 40 viewers on WordPress who actually like my stuff, and also mercy for more than seven billion people on earth who don’t have to read it.
But the rest of the world? What are more than seven billion doing? They are closing down. They are saying schools must be closed. They are saying churches must be closed. They are saying restaurants must be closed. They are saying stadiums must be empty. For what?
After staring into the dark a while, I doubted seven billion would actually do that. It’s just not in human nature. So there. And that defeats my original premise as well.