I've heard it said that the great world wars of the last century were part of the price humanity paid for the rapid advancements that came along as well. While I'm not sure about of that kind of universal "trade-off," I do believe that the sense of duty and responsibility that propelled many people who lived in those times earned them something that many of us now have lost.
It was a kind of dependable human steadiness. A true strength of will.
The Zeller brothers. My father remembers them from his youth in Montana. Bud and Dean Zeller, who for all the years of their lives -- 365 days a year -- got up and milked the cows in their dairy. What does it mean to have that kind of constant in your life? Come what may in life and the world, that one duty is always there, waiting; every morning to wake up, pull on your clothes, and plod out in the darkness to the barn. (My father knows...do I?)
They milked cows and raised hay and stayed old bachelors, living together with their sister Kathryn, growing old and white-haired. Then one day, Bud up and married Thelma Braden, the post office lady, who had cared for her invalid mother well into "old-maidenhood." They married well past the age of having children for reasons beyond youth's fancies and dreams. What does it mean to live simply and patiently? Finding contentment in the "as they are" rather than the "if only they had been." (My grandpa knows...do I?)
What does it mean to grow hay and then see, in one hailstorm -- in five minutes, a whole year's work gone. And then go into town the next day to borrow money from the bank to start over. To try again. There must be a kind of happiness won through steadiness -- through doing what "must be done." (My great-grandfather knows it...do I?)
I've read that happiness can be a gift from life and love -- it can just come into our lives. But that kind of happiness isn't really ours…life can take it back at any time. The kind that we earn, it's a different and better kind of happiness. It can never be taken away, no matter what comes along.
I wonder at the strength of character of all those who came before...