By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
Roy Green is a 90-year-old resident of AvonLea Assisted Living and Retirement Community in Tupelo. He’s a back-to-basics kind of guy.
“I loved discipline. I always have, and I still do,” he said. “I always say it’s the biggest problem in our country today: The breakdown of discipline.”
A Corinth native, he served in the Air Force in the European theater during World War II, and he worked as a civilian during the rebuilding of Japan. He’s lived in New York and Colorado, and avoided the usual tourist traps when he traveled to far-flung places.
In short, he’s a worldly man. But he also wishes children could experience life down on the farm:
* Where they can work without getting paid.
* Where they can raise and kill what they eat.
* Where they can grow into responsible adults.
“We need to be tougher,” he said, “and do without more.”
This is the distilled version of what Green had to say. It’s my fault if he comes off as too gruff.
We were having a conversation with other AvonLea residents about the upcoming anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and how the events of Dec. 7, 1941, affected people’s lives. That story will run Wednesday.
But Green’s asides reminded me about one of the most important things newspaper work has taught me. Over the past 20 years, I’ve spoken with people Green’s age and older and asked an eye-opening question: What was Christmas like when you were a kid?
The answer is simple.
By that, I mean “simple” is the answer.
Oranges and peppermint sticks were prized. There were carols and visits to church, as well as Christmas Eve excursions to cut down trees and decorate them with paper ornaments and popcorn strings.
A dress made from a flour sack was a wonder. Baby dolls, either store-bought or handmade, gave reason to celebrate. For boys, a slingshot or toy gun carved from wood did the trick.
There were lucky kids who got more than their friends, but even in well-to-do homes, you would’ve had a hard time finding anything that resembled today’s middle-class Christmas morning.
I don’t want to go back to the past, other than thinking about the good times I’ve had with people who’ve gone on to whatever’s next.
And I certainly don’t want hardship for hardship’s sake. Green said positive things came out of the Great Depression. I believe him, but the rest of us don’t need to learn those lessons firsthand.
By all means, let’s appreciate the conveniences and extravagances that come with modern-day celebrations. We’re lucky to have them.
Let’s also take a cue from Green, and make sure we don’t mistake the holiday’s trappings for the true blessings of the Christmas season.
As far as Green’s appreciation for discipline goes, that would be an excellent topic to revisit on Dec. 31.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.