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John Bressler -- Are we learning through suffering?
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John Bressler

This is the "Out of the Box" thinking week when I attempt to share some of my past to move my students forward so we can discuss their future.

I grew up in the 50s, which meant that our nation was still recovering from World War II, and times were changing. We were the manufacturing giant, an economic power, a world power and the outlook was wide open! I still remember being in markets, years before, and watching my mother deal with those ration books to see how much meat or butter she could buy. Most clothing was rather nondescript and getting a pair of shoes was a day for celebration. While a lot of history passed me by during the 40s, by the time I became a teenager I began to understand why we counted what we had before going to the store and why we counted our change very carefully after we had shopped.

One thing I will always remember - while dad and my uncles were somewhere overseas - my mom ran the house, made the money, dealt out the punishment and raised us as best she could and did a pretty good job of it. As time passed and the world as I knew it normalized, I felt as though I was one of the luckiest guys anywhere. I was growing up in Huntington, W.Va., one of the most beautiful cities one can imagine, all the girls were pretty and everything seemed to be one long "Leave it to Beaver" sitcom.

Times have drastically changed! The extraordinary changes brought on by the radicals of the 60s, the anger and protest of the 70s and the downward slide that can't be discussed in so few available words has brought us to our present day panic that neither economists nor historians can clarify to anyone's satisfaction. We have sunk so low that we are waiting for our politicians to bring us hope.

What I say to the students is that we, and so many like me, are at fault for the present and now it is their responsibility to correct the present so they and their children's children can have a future. There are limited and non-replaceable resources to be protected, a huge population growth that will strain what possibilities are available and an overwhelming "entitlement" mentality that must be addressed. I still remember watching television and the emotions I felt the day those planes destroyed buildings and took lives in New York City. I still remember telling every class, "The world in which we live has been changed forever!"

If I may briefly back up in time: I think that much of what has happened began in the 50s when we took God for granted. After all, we won the war and our manifest destiny was sealed in history. A church could be built on any street corner and filled to capacity by the next weekend; be hired by any company and one could work there until retirement, which meant moving to the mountains to watch the fish jump or the leaves change.

What happened? Did we move so far away from God that we left Him out of the equation? Did we, in our sophistication, intellect and control, decide to visit Him on Christmas, Easter and special occasions so He would continue to bless our success?

Perhaps, and only time will tell, we are like the exiles addressed by Isaiah. We are like the dry bones of Ezekiel's time. Have we finally learned and are we waiting for the words, "Be comforted my people! I am building a highway in the desert. It will be straight and it will lead you home. You have suffered enough!"?

Are we learning through our suffering? Will the young hear the call and change the direction? Who is calling and who will heed the call? Only time will tell.


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