Today’s column begins with a brain teaser. Using the clues below, try to guess the word being described.
1. It is carried by the wind.
2. The singer Bob Dylan wrote and sang a song about it.
3. It can be good, it can be bad. It can rest for a while, but it always goes on and on.
4. Robert Frost wrote a poem about it.
5. Many women believe they can do it with their lovers.
6. It can come back to you, and often with a metallic tinkling sound.
7. Teenage girls have perfected it.
8. All babies need help with it.
9. It is often described as, “the spice of life.”
10. It is not advised to do while crossing a river on horseback.
11. It is feared, and yet embraced, as it is the source of renewal and growth.
12. Leopards can’t do it.
13. You can do it with your friends, and probably should do it more often.
14. Your mother insisted that your socks do it.
That’s right, the mystery word is “Change.”
Today’s article is about change. It began as a conversation my son and I had. “Dad, check out this video on YouTube.” I watched the 10-minute video on his cell phone, where a 68-year-old bus monitor was being bullied and harassed by four kids on a school bus. After seeing it, I said, “What’s this all about?” My son’s reply was what nailed me to the floor: “Dad, the woman is now rich. $605,000 has been donated to her by people all over the USA. She became an instant YouTube sensation. Everyone who saw the video felt bad for her, so, here comes the money.”
I was struggling with the concept that a formerly unknown woman could be shot out by a technological cantaloupe — no — catapult, to the heights of celebrity and overnight wealth. Was it the money that bothered me? If the story stayed the same, but the woman didn’t receive any money, would I feel different? Or, was it that the outpouring of support for her, and against the bullies, had finally landed on the moral side — bullying in any form is wrong — and so, was the assistance she received a sign that America was coming to her senses and lost values could be re-established?
No, I had to chew awhile before discovering what it was in this story that worried me. Then, today at lunch with my family, my relatives began to tell stories about my mother’s parents. My maternal grandmother, born in 1893, lived to be 98 years old. My maternal grandfather, born in 1891, lived to be 93. What changes had they witnessed?
As I listened to the stories about the first electric lights installed on their farm, and about the mischief my mother would get into when she somehow managed to move the outhouse — indoor plumbing was a relief — I realized why the bus story had scared me: for the first time in history, the struggles of one woman could now be connected to the hearts of billions of people, and, when emotionally moved, they could touch her back. It was the sheer magnitude of this dazzling technological change which had seized my heart with fear.
But wait. How did my grandparents survive a torrent of change: the horrors of world wars; the child killers such as polio or flu; the Great Depression, whose sharp teeth and deadly bite would cause them to lose their home and farmland.
Now I have a question for you. If you took a scale and measured the weight of what my grandparents carried, and then compared them to today’s hardships, which side would be the heaviest? It would not be ours.
So, how did they survive? They were able to draw upon a source of power, which lies inside every human heart. It is the strength received when we ask our friends, families, or faith for help. I also think they were able to hold on to this truth: human nature remains the same — a mother smiling at her newborn infant, a father teaching a child to ride a bike, lovers holding hands, and dreamers dreaming of a brighter future.
“The times they are a changing”. Yes, Bob Dylan, you’re right. And yes, YouTube, you are amazing. But, as fast as the feet of technology can run, human nature endures by remaining still and quiet.
The content of this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for treatment by a professional. The characters in this story are not real. Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.
Dr. Richard Elghammer contributes his column each week to the Journal Review.
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