John Livingston


For the past 23 years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to swim on early summer mornings at an outdoor pool. Occasionally I am joined by a delightful lady who taught high school senior English at an elite high school for over thirty years. She is now retired but occasionally does substitute teaching. Last spring, I asked her what the difference was between students today and students when she first started teaching. She told me she could sum it up in one word. — GRATITUDE.

Last summer I went back to my old high school in Ohio for a football team reunion. They had just built a brand-new high school. My wife and I toured the facilities and were introduced to the principal and several coaches. I had never seen such facilities. Every sport from the indoor swimming facility with state-of-the-art “baffling” lane dividers, to a wave attenuation design that allowed for faster times, to the artificial turf football, softball, baseball, lacrosse, and tennis playing fields—more like “pitches”. The baseball field didn’t even have a dirt “skin”, but small rubber pebbles created the illusion of a dirt surface. My wife asked if the ball bounced differently and if visiting teams had to adjust? The answer of the baseball coach was “absolutely—it gives us an advantage”. Then my wife asked two more questions—”Do other schools have dirt infields”. The coach answered in the affirmative. Then she asked, “do other teams have an advantage when they play you on their fields”? No reply. I then asked if games in the district and State tournaments are played on similar fields and the answer was that this is the only field of its’ kind in the State—even Ohio State doesn’t have this new advanced field.

When I played sports at Arlington we played on grass fields—most of them were mostly dirt and the baseball field for the longest time had no infield grass—it was all dirt. As we completed our tour, I asked one of the coaches—”Do these kids understand what they have?” Do they understand that as high school kids they may be playing in facilities and with equipment that they may never see again in college or in minor or major league baseball.” The answer was interesting. “We had to build these types of facilities because we were competing with other communities—Dublin and Westerville by name and if we didn’t families would migrate to those schools”. Parents and their kids demanded such facilities. My wife kind of cringed when she heard that reply and when we got back into the car she said. “You are two generations behind” Those coaches are the age of our kids—mid 40’s, and they don’t even understand what they have been given. They probably always played on artificial turf themselves and never had to play on an all “skin” infield or football field or swim in a pool with waves from other competitors.

My point is that so many of our young people are so far removed from the realities of the lives that their parents and grandparents had, that they are unable to appreciate what they have been given today. It is not a lack of gratitude so much as it is ignorance. Their teachers lack the same perspective so how can they teach our children to understand how fortunate they are?

I believe that we are beginning to see an unintended consequence of the mass illegal migration that is occurring across our southern border today. Even though the status of “refugee” is being abused, many who come to our country are sacrificing and even suffering to get here. That first generation and their children won’t soon forget what they left and the journey. It will be their children that forget. Even Democrats are beginning to realize that their bet on a new generation of voters for their cause may not come to fruition. People who flee repressive regimes prefer work over a handout. That is a Conservative virtue.

It has always been the story of the immigration class that the first generation—the generation that suffered and sacrificed to get to realize the American dream, are the most productive. That is the generation that is most grateful, even though they are the ones that work in the fields or do manual labor. The next generation are the blue-collar workers who work with the goal of sending their children to college or university. They too suffer and sacrifice, but their children—almost a forty percent of that group graduate from college become less patriotic and less religious—and from what I can tell less happy. From what I have seen there is a connection between work and happiness. There is a connection between work and faith and patriotism. Maybe it is true that the more you work for something the more you value it. Truly the happiest people I have known in my life are proud of their work and they place a high value on the contributions they make to their families and their communities.

Just maybe this new generation of American immigrants will follow in the footsteps of previous immigrants. They will love God; they will love their family and they will love their communities and their country—all conservative values.

Those who have crossed our border looking for a free ride will be disappointed. Without work there can be no pride. Without understanding that the sacrifices of those who came before you and the sacrifices that you have made yourself and believing that what you possess materially and spiritually is a gift from God demands a sense of gratitude. Without the understanding that you have been given “stewardship” and not ownership over your talents and opportunities, then a sense of entitlement evolves. Poor or rich people can feel entitled to a material asset or position at the table. Equity without work and accomplishment is not meritocratic fulfilment. I have never known a rich or poor person who feels entitled to anything that was happy. I have never known a victim who was a happy victim. I believe that entitlement and “victimhood”. only leads to a lack of gratitude and diminishing happiness.

What we need in our country today is to reestablish a respect for work and a gratitude for the work of ourselves and others. Being grateful—having gratitude, requires a sense of humility. Sometimes people have trouble respecting the work of others because they have never had to work and sacrifice themselves. Not teaching our children how to work hard may be one of the greatest sins of my generation. Everything good requires hard work. Loving a spouse or a child. Being forgiving and merciful. Loving your neighbor. All require hard work. Without hard work their can be no gratitude—only victimhood and entitlement.

WE NEED A NEW GREAT AWAKING. Gratitude is a start.

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