Recently my wife of 71 years and I went to a movie. The cost for two senior citizens was $15. As I pocketed the change, I thought back to our first date: The price for two tickets to the movies in 1939 was 66 cents. Two cokes and two hamburgers afterward were 50 cents. Total cost: $1.16. Gas for the family car was 13 cents a gallon.
Just a year out of high school, I was fortunate to have a job in a shoe factory. My take home pay for a 40-hour week: $14.75.
The nation was in the midst of Depression. Millions were unemployed. Banks and investment houses were failing, and manufacturers were going bankrupt. Nazism under Hitler was taking hold in Germany, Facism under Mussolini was on the rise in Italy, and Japan was threatening China and the Pacific region.
Soon France would fall under the Nazi flag along with the other nations of Europe. Hitler’s Air Force would attempt to bomb and burn the English people into submission. Japan would attack Pearl Harbor.
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Yet in these worst of times there were voices of hope, such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who declared in accepting the nomination for a second term as president that “This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.”
The succeeding decades saw the truth of those words. We crushed the Hitler-Mussolini plan for world domination and Japan’s imperialistic ambitions. We have witnessed dramatic strides in medicine, science, communication, transportation, atomic energy and exploration in outer space.
We have increased our knowledge in multiple areas, but have we increased in wisdom, i.e. the knowledge of what is true or right, along with good judgment?
Do laws that allow guns in restaurants where families gather reveal wisdom and good judgment? Does refusing to provide medical insurance for those in need reveal wisdom and good judgment? Does fostering laws that prevent many from exercising their right to vote reveal wisdom and good judgment? The list goes on.
We have pushed aside our humanity for things that perish. Let us use this season of Lent to search out who we are as a people and seek to discover how we can better live together and shape our community in such manner that those who follow us will be moved to proclaim: “Their wisdom was just. They left us a goodly heritage.”
Rev. Canon George I. Chassey