Mother's Day is here and it's my first one without Mom. My mother, Evelyn Levine, died on April 19, and it was a huge personal loss as well as the end of an era. She was the last of the Greatest Generation in her family. More importantly, she was an amazing mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, as well as my biggest fan.
I hope it's okay to go a bit older than people in their 40s and 50s. I'm a family sociologist at Cornell, and we surveyed over 1200 people over 60 on this very topic (described in the book 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans). Here are four "life lessons" they wanted to pass down to younger people - hope you find them helpful!
Our society is at least four times as rich as it was when my dad came home from the war. Far too much of that national wealth is going to the wrong people -- bankers and speculators who not only don't earn their wealth but who caused a great recession for everyone else. My dad didn't go to college; he was the first member of his family to own a house thanks to the GI bill (no housing scandals of that era -- these were direct government loans), and he was part of a rising, hard-working middle class. My kids and grandkids didn't suffer the Great Depression, nor did they have to slog across Normandy or serve time in a German POW camp. But they face a stunted future. My father's generation did not make their sacrifices only so that their great-grandchildren would be the stunted generation.
We have an untapped resource that has yet to be re-purposed. Our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are not only experiencing a criminal rate of unemployment, but they are the men and women who have proven themselves willing to pull together and face the most difficult challenges, under the most dire circumstances.