I got one of those nostalgic emails the other day. The kind that tells me I’m old, but in a pleasant sort of airy way. I don’t normally read these, particularly the ones that say “You’ve got to read this!” or “Hilariously funny!” because I have a pretty good idea where they’re going from the title alone.
But I read this one all the way to the end, and in many ways, I’m glad I did. It pulled at some of my more ancient heartstrings to begin with. Who doesn’t want to go back to simpler times on occasion? Probably why Midnight in Paris did so well at the box office.
Secondly, I liked the whole, “We-were-so-much-better-than-you-are” theme (and probably still are because of our upbringing), especially as I get older and realize I can’t say that as often as I would like.
Anyway, I’m not going to copy and paste the entire prose, but if you haven’t received it, give “The Green Thing” a Google and it’s sure to pop up.
But I am going to pick out a few lines and give to give you my two bits (and perhaps a bit more) on the subject.
The story goes like this: an older woman (somewhere in the top of my age bracket – hence, baby boomer and beyond) is chastised by a younger store clerk (anything below my age bracket or basically just out of diapers) about not bringing a reusable bag to carry her purchases home. It unfolds…
The woman apologized to him and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”
The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment.”
The story goes on to point out that “yes” he was right. Back in the day, we:
- returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.
- We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.
- We washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry the clothes.
- Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
- We had one TV (if we had one), or listened to radio shows, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana.
- In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us.
The list goes on and on – recounting the superhuman traits of a generation who lived with very little, yet managed to survive. It was flattering to say the least and I couldn’t help but chuckle and nod my head, reminiscing through the parts I remember.
But then I got to the end…
But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?
And I got to thinking. Yes, those of us who lived back in the day, did a lot of cool “greenie” things.
But, we didn’t do them to help the earth or limit global warming or even make an eco-statement.
We did them because we didn’t have money to burn or plastic options or modern technology that would have made life easier.
We didn’t have 24/7 entertainment opportunities, two cars in every garage or do-it-all-for-you kitchen gadgets.
And we didn’t have an inkling what our lives could have been like if we had more stuff than we could possibly know what to do with.
It was a different time. Period.
So as much as we would like to flaunt our green-like ways, give this younger generation a piece of our I-did-it-before-it-was-hip eco-talks, we aren’t really all that different from the cavemen, who walked everywhere, used only what they needed and by all means, never accepted a plastic bag at the supermarket.
It’s all about perspective. And unless we, as a generation are doing the same earth-saving things we did in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, etc., we can’t truly gloat about our past ultra-green life-styles.
What we need to do first is ask ourselves one question:
So, you were “green” back then, but what about now?
And seriously look at how we live today.