At the last meeting of our Breakfast Club, I mentioned that my youngest son and his wife had just purchased their first house. Everyone offered their congratulations, and the news prompted a spirited conversation among us about our own first homes, and how it was when we were growing up and starting families of our own. Everybody had a tale to tell. Most remembered the experience of making that initial large purchase as one that was quite traumatic. In my case, the idea that my wife and I were incurring a whopping $48,000 in debt necessitated a trip to the family doctor for a prescription for a tranquilizer before I could attend the closing. One of the other members of the group related how he had to resort to several drinks before he could attend his own closing. There were laughs all around. Then, the conversation shifted to a nostalgic look at how much things have changed since those days back when we were growing up during and after World War II.
We all agreed that most young Americans today take a great deal for granted. For instance, most of us in our group grew up in a house that had only one full bathroom. We just accepted the fact that we had to make our showers short, in order to save the hot water for the other members of the family. Today, it’s the norm for a house to have a minimum of two full bathrooms, with three not being that unusual. Most young couples today purchase starter homes that cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. They do so without batting an eyelash at the accompanying debt. Debt has become a way of life.
When I was a kid, we first learned to drive in our parents’ car, and we needed to obtain permission to use it for a date, or to attend a football game, or a school dance. Today, it’s not unusual for sixteen-year olds to have brand new cars of their own that rival those of their parents.
Kids today have access to multiple high definition color TV sets in their parents’ homes, with huge screens and access to hundreds of channels via cable or satellite dish. When I was a kid, our families gathered around a twelve-inch black and white set, and watched a grand total of three network stations, each of which signed off at midnight with the playing of the Star Spangled Banner and the image of a waving flag as the last thing we saw. Now, it’s possible to watch first run movies at any hour of the day.
Everything today is “gotta have it now.” That’s why nobody really appreciates what they have. We throw out TVs, rather than pass them down to our offspring. Auto mechanics have become nearly obsolete, since we trade our cars in on new ones before the “old” ones have even exhausted their warranties. We have more food than we can possibly eat stored in our refrigerators, some of which are the size of our first automobiles.
The most telling statistic of just how good we have it is the current definition of what passes for poverty. An article from the Heritage Foundation in 2011 stated that “. . . the overwhelming majority of the poor have air conditioning, cable TV, and a host of other modern amenities. They are well housed, have an adequate and reasonably steady supply of food, and have met their other basic needs, including medical care. Some poor Americans do experience significant hardships, including temporary food shortages or inadequate housing, but these individuals are a minority within the overall poverty population.”
Do I wish that we could return to those “old fashioned days” of the 50s, 60s, and 70s? Of course not. But I wouldn’t mind seeing a return to a mindset that would have us truly thanking God for our bounteous life.
We are all blessed in so many ways. We ought to take a moment to appreciate all that we have.
NOTE: Joe Perrone Jr is the author of the highly-successful Matt Davis Mystery Series: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day (a 2012 Indie B.R.A.G. medallion winner), Twice Bitten, and Broken Promises. All four are available in paperback and E-book. As the Twig is Bent and Opening Day are also in audiobook from Audible.com, with Twice Bitten and Broken Promises soon to follow.
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