I was the first child of two people with negative blood
types. Doctors didn’t know how to handle that yet and
as expected only the first child survived. My younger
brother and sister didn’t live long enough to make it
home from the hospital. Lesson: I am alive by dumb
luck, not superiority.
When I was growing up in Detroit my parents both had
jobs. In the early public school years summer vacation
was a problem. They solved it by taking me to mom’s
parents in rural southern Indiana. From ages five
through fourteen, from late June to the end of August,
I had a completely different life . Tractors, farm animals,
fishing, blackberry picking, swimming hole. Nothing like
the city. A whole different point of view. Lesson: We
quickly adjust to where we are and who we are with.
My grandparents, Sam and Mae, never had much
money. He did manual labor jobs when I was staying
with them and they lived in cheap rented places out in
the country. The first couple of years they had no indoor
plumbing or electricity. A well with hand operated
water pump in the yard, an outhouse in back and
kerosene lanterns after dark. There was a goat we
milked every day. Lesson: Complaints are useless.
Social life was centered around church, family and
neighbors. I never saw them smoke or drink alcohol.
They had an old car which took Sam to work and us to
town when necessary. My first experience driving a
car was in that 1942 Hudson at age thirteen. I had only
steered a tractor on the lap of the driver before that.
Lesson: Doesn’t matter where you learn. Just that you
The attitude my grandparents brought with them from
Scotland was that whatever happened was for a reason
so accept it and move on. They taught me by example.
Love and strength enough to keep trying through
whatever life throws at you. Money is less important
than character. A simple life has plenty of pleasures if
you look for them. Lesson: An open mind is valuable.
They were usually smiling and nice but stood up and
faced what they felt was wrong. They sometimes cried
about things but then rolled up their sleeves and got to
work. Sam was not good at business but great with
people. He always wanted to be a Minister and finally
went to college in his sixties to accomplish it. Lesson: If
you’re still alive you can still progress.
They were popular in their assigned small rural
churches but stayed the same people through
everything. Sam and I had a snowball fight when he
was in his late seventies. Sam was as practical and as
down to earth as they come for eighty two years, and
Mae for ninety two. Lesson: We are who we choose to
be whether successful or not.
Was their religion necessary for them to be good people?
No, but they loved it and it helped them cope. They
believed it was based on friendly, peaceful principles
that encouraged health, charity and good will. I was
never aware of negative teachings from theirs or other
religions. Only from individuals for their personal
reasons. Lesson: Religions usually teach goodness, but
people sometimes pervert the message.
Scientists studying the age of things tell us we have
lived on a small planet in a vast ocean of them for a
comparatively short time. Whatever damage we do to
our little world may wipe us out but won’t affect other
planets much. If humans all become fossils nature will
move on without emotion. We can see that humans and
this earth are a minuscule part of a huge picture.
Lesson: There is much more out there than we now
know. Our progress is just beginning.
So are we unimportant or does the way we conduct
ourselves matter? This is the big lesson. Our conduct
makes our own lives reasonable or not. It also affects
what and who is around us. Individuals smart enough
to work together nicely with others and nature have a
good chance to build, prosper and improve their own
lives. Greedy, aggressive, bigoted behavior has proven
to be hard to sustain and usually fails.
Today is the same as when Sam and Mae were around.
Regardless of our electronic gadgets, how we decide to
act makes all the difference.
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