Ask Not

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I suppose that by anyone’s standards I am a senior citizen, an older woman, someone who’s been around the sun a few times. I don’t see myself as someone who has all of the answers even after a lifetime of learning. I try to keep up with the news, the trends, the modern ways of doing things. Taking a page from my grandfather’s playbook I tend to look to the future rather than wallowing in dreams of the past. My working days are not quite over since I teach a variety of mathematics courses to around ten students, but I admittedly no longer have the energy to work with a full classroom for eight to twelve hours a day. I’m no longer in the big mix of things like I once and I’ve lost quite a few dear friends and beloved family members as each new year completes its cycle. I suppose that my point of view is affected by the slower pace that I am now allowed to follow in honor of my age, but I still have a roaring type A personality that leans more towards impatience than a willingness to allow things to work at their own pace.

We’ve all been affected by the past couple of years during a time of global pandemic. People in my age cohort have been deemed most likely to get severe or even deadly cases of COVID-19, and so we have been blessed to receive the first doses of vaccines and boosters. The world is lovingly considering our situation and taking care of us, which has been a humbling and most appreciated blessing. Those still working and raising families have had a more difficult time during all of the chaos that the tiny virus has created. They are still making their way through the journeys of their careers while also navigating the care and education of young children. It has been a difficult and sometimes confusing and precarious balancing act for them. Our youngest people are somehow adjusting and dealing with the trauma of this event just as they tend to do. Of course, they will not be left without scars, but somehow there is an energy in children that provides them with the ability to be more flexible and open to the necessities of change. 

Over my many years on the earth I have learned that very few things that happen to us are simple, nor are the solutions for the problems that arise. We humans have to be more like the children, open to change, willing to adapt to unique situations, curious about learning new skill and ideas. As the profound song goes “you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.” 

I’ve repeated that line often during the past almost two years of life-changing and sometimes disturbing times. I’ve done a great deal of soul searching and I’ve tried my best to be flexible at a time in my life when I had grown fond of clinging to routines. I have had to curb my impatient nature and learn how to calm my tendencies to want to hurry things along. It has been a good exercise for me. I’ve stopped long enough to see the big picture and my own small place in the cares and woes of the world. I have in a sense been forced to be less self-centered than I might otherwise have been. 

I have seen that the vast array of people the world over are doing their very best to keep our engines of society running smoothly, but the illnesses, deaths, and slow downs in production have created kinks that were not there before. Our world is like a great big family in turmoil and we can all work together or we can yell and scream at each other. I suggest the former.

Back in early March my husband and I ordered a home generator that is produced in Wisconsin. We were told that the processing and delivery of the unit took about three months, but because production had been slowed by the illnesses of workers it might take an extra month or so before it could be shipped and then installed. We soon learned that there are many moving parts in the creation of an item like this. The manufacturers depended on parts from all across the globe and had to wait for them far longer than usual before putting the generator together. There were also shipping issues that slowed the process as well. We had to be exceedingly patient while we waited for the machine to arrive. It finally came in November five months later than promised. In the end, it really did not matter because we knew that everyone along the chain was doing his or her best to accommodate us. There was no reason for us to be surly or to point fingers at anyone. We are all in the gooey mess together.

The delay was not a simple matter of lazy people unwilling to go back to work, or building things in America rather than relying on other nations. Whether we like it or not, commerce is a global affair and no doubt always will be. In any business if workers are sick, things slow down. If we have to wait for supplies from the far reaches of the world, more complications develop. Then there is the matter of our human traits. There have been so many differing response to the virus making it more and more inevitable that the smooth flow of goods and services would be interrupted. We did not immediately go back to normal just because we wished to do so.

This is hardly the first time in history that we have been challenged by shortages and delays. Just ask anyone who was alive during World War II what kind of things were unavailable during that conflict and they will tell you about ration coupons and recipes that used substitutes for eggs and sugar and other staples that were difficult to find. They will show you high school yearbooks made from pulp paper without hard covers. Inside those annuals there will be a noticeable lack of young men because most of them had gone off to war. They will speak of patching tires because there was no rubber for new ones. They did whatever they had to do because they understood that it would have been absurd to expect their lives to be exactly the way they had always been. For some those war years lasted six years and even after the fighting was over there was a long period of adjustment.

It is going to take time to assume any sense of normalcy. Europe is experiencing another wave of COVID-19 among the unvaccinated. The winter months may slow the flow of commerce even more. Our prices may respond by going higher. It will be up to each of us to find ways of helping the cause. Instead of complaining we can do like our forebears and be thankful on this day if we are still alive and able to celebrate our good fortune with a Thanksgiving meal with family or friends.

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” should be our mantra. We’ve spent too much time complaining. Now it’s time to get creative and deal with our realities like reasonable individuals willing to work our way forward. It will take time and adaptability. Let’s demonstrate that we have not forgotten how to make sacrifices and be flexible. Let us not ignore the most unfortunate in this world. The present state of the world is not about any one of us personally. It’s about everyone together. Let’s us be thankful for whatever we have and pledge on this day to be kind and patient and aware of the needs and hopes and dreams everyone around us. Sometimes that means waiting a bit to satisfy our desires. In our hearts we know we can do it. We just have to redirect our anger and our attitudes like good people before us have always done.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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