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A friend of mine posted the following, on her Facebook page:

“I’ve learned that I cannot always count on others to respect my feelings. Even if I respect theirs. Being a good person, doesn’t guarantee that others will be good people too. You only have control over yourself on how you choose to be as a person. And for others, you can only choose to accept them, or walk away.”

My husband and I were talking about this the other day, about how it seems no matter how you treat others, what you’re willing to do to be supportive or helpful, you really can’t expect to receive the same treatment in return. In fact, you really can’t expect anyone to even be grateful for what you’re willing to do, give or share.

I found myself feeling a bit misled by the values and morals I’d been taught by my parents, more specifically, by my grandparents. This made me start thinking about how much things have changed and questioning if the lessons of our grandparents’ generation have become antiquated in today’s society.

In a previous blog, “Obligation of Reciprocity?” I talked about this to some degree, about how this current generation views things so differently than our generation did or does.

As I was sitting here thinking about what my friend had posted, I realized there is evidence of a clear ‘rejection’ of the one most important lesson we were taught growing up, the ‘Golden Rule.’ The changes that have occurred have NOT necessarily been positive or for the ‘betterment’ of society.

What am I talking about? Well, for example, when I was growing up, everyone in your neighborhood knew everyone else. Adults knew who all the children were, who their parents were and where they lived. Adults in a neighborhood, not just the block you lived on, but for several blocks around your home, kept an eye on the children who were outside playing. If they saw you doing something you shouldn’t be doing, they admonished you and you could rest assured your Mom would know what you were doing before you got home. People felt a sense of responsibility and obligation to protect one another, to look out for one another. There was a strong sense of community.

I’m from a generation when there were ‘block parents’, adults in the neighborhood who displayed a sign in their window alerting children that their home was a ‘safe place’ to go if you were lost or someone was following or bullying you, if you were scared.

You don’t see these anymore. People generally have their windows closed and blinds or drapes drawn, living in their insulated private world, avoiding the people outside it. One would have to be afraid to encourage their child to go to a neighbor’s home or the home of a stranger today because child abduction and pedophilia are common dangers for children.

When I was growing up, no one locked their doors, windows were left open all day and night, it wasn’t uncommon for people to leave the house to run errands, grocery shop, etc., and leave their front door standing open. We knew that our neighbors would be alert in the neighborhood, keeping an eye on things, everyone did that. Today you’re considered a ‘nosy neighbor’ if you are ‘observant’.

When we were kids, we were limited as to how much television we were allowed to watch and our parents chose the programs. When the weather was good we played outside regardless of the season. We were shooed outside at 7 a.m. and we came back inside for the night at 7 p.m. Today kids sit in front of the television every moment they aren’t in school or bed. They sleep in until after noon every day during the Summer and their lives revolve around video games and electronics.

I walk through my neighborhood and it never ceases to create an emptiness in my heart, the lack of children playing in their yards, the lack of laughter and squeals of happiness. There are no children playing ball, skipping rope, roller skating, playing tag. Even in Autumn when we used to spend every moment after school playing in the leaves, in Winter when we hurried outside to build snowmen, make snow forts, have snowball battles, etc. If kids aren’t ‘plugged in’ to one electronic gadget or another, they don’t seem to have an idea how to use their imaginations, how to pretend, how to be creative, on their own.

My Grandparents and my parents DEMANDED respect from anyone who was younger than themselves. We were taught that people older than ourselves had more life experiences, had gained wisdom through their years, they provided and cared for us, we were dependent on them, they were deserving of respect. Today kids think they are equal to adults. They challenge and argue with everything adults have to say. They talk back, disobey, purposefully break rules, break the law and expect their parents to treat them as if they are ‘entitled’ to some sort of advantage or special treatment. Kids today act as if they are owed something by their parents.

When I was growing up we had to ask permission to go into a neighbor’s yard. We didn’t get in other people’s cars, take things from their porches, go into their yards – even to retrieve a lost ball – without asking. Today people think nothing of coming into someone’s yard, taking their landscaping lights, dumping their picnic table, stealing their porch furniture, breaking lights, destroying landscaping plants, spray painting on fences and buildings, riding their bicycles through the yard, throwing things at people’s dogs, etc. A neighbor of ours had their car ransacked, another neighbor had a fire started on his property. We’ve caught kids in our backyard between the houses, cutting through our neighbor’s property.

We have tried to live as our grandparents and parents did, in that we try to consider the feelings of others, to respect others. We try to help those we can help, be supportive and giving, but we are treated as if we have some underlying ulterior motive for trying to be good, kind and decent people. People have admonished us, saying we think we’re better than other people, we think we’re superior, we do good things to help others so we can feel better than everyone else.

My heart hurts for the changes that have happened to us as people, as a society, as communities and neighborhoods and families. Things have changed and they haven’t changed for the better. I wouldn’t have thought that good manners, respect and caring could become antiquated, but it certainly seems that’s the case.

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