Kids and country
Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 9:28 pm
If you missed the Veterans Day parade, you missed a blessing. It was a time to honor the men and women who have served our country faithfully. Our boys enjoyed watching the veterans walk or ride through downtown Martin. We clapped and cheered as they walked past. I heard a small child ask, “Mom, why is that man crying?” That put a tear in my own eye. In such a simple way, we had gathered to show our appreciation. We didn’t throw money. We didn’t present gold medals. We just said thanks. The parade was a reminder of the debt of gratitude we owe. Those who worked so hard to plan the event did a wonderful thing for the veterans and for the community.
Our boys lost their great-grandfather last year. Pa Butler served in World War II and like so many of his generation, he never sat around wondering about self-fulfillment. When he no longer served in the military, he served his family and community faithfully until his death. We want our own children to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them or their personal interests. We want them to grasp the part God has uniquely equipped them to play in the world. We want them to know that they shine brightest when they focus on helping others. But honestly, teaching those lessons is sometimes a difficult task.
The world my boys are growing up in seems absolutely nothing like the world Pa Butler knew ... even though he grew up only a few hours from our home. By today’s standards he grew up in abject poverty. But he never knew hunger because he and his parents worked the land. Pa Butler told us that his mother provided extra beans and cornbread for many of the neighbor children who had no food at all. Around the bounty of the Christmas dinner table Pa would tearfully say, “I know you kids have never known hunger. In my childhood there were people who knew hunger but there were a lot fewer people who knew hunger ... because they knew my mother.”
Pa’s parents didn’t spend their days taking him to extracurricular activities or wondering if he was reaching his full potential. Pa worked. Pa worked for the family. He worked because work produced food and food produced life. And yes, he felt good about himself. He knew he was needed and loved and that produced a unique sense of satisfaction. Even though Pa was never involved in any extracurricular activities, he was remarkably skilled and talented. It’s no wonder Tom Brokaw described his generation as the greatest generation.
Like most parents, we desperately want to teach our boys about service and commitment. We know those lessons are most effectively taught through experiences ... up close and personal. Veterans Day may be over, but it’s never too late to introduce your children to those who have served. If there’s a veteran in your family or in your neighborhood, set up a time to meet. Maybe it will be just the right expression of thanks for a veteran and just the right life lesson for your child. And if you have to skip one of your child’s extracurricular activities in order to make the meeting happen, do it anyway. Let’s give Tom Brokaw something to write about this generation.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 11.12.08
Lisa Smartt, The Smartt View