Our place in history, however long or brief, begins the moment we are born and ends the moment we die. The people who are dead and gone have had their place in history, and the history books and other forms of documentation are replete with names, faces and stories of those who made a contribution to the success or demise of the human race.
We who live in the United States of America have been the most blessed people on earth and especially those of us who have lived for the past 50 years.
Any educated person would be hard pressed to name any field of endeavor, whether it is science, technology, medicine, commerce, transportation, communications and all the others, where we have not experienced phenomenal progress. From a national perspective, however, we have no way of knowing what the future holds.
In many ways, we can learn and profit from the past, but the future ... We can only hope and pray that the best is yet to come. One of the things that God has blessed me with is positive, optimistic outlook on life. I just look for and expect the best, and I’m grateful in saying that for the most part, it has worked out that way.
To be sure, I am also a realist and try to keep things in perspective as I make decisions that affect me and especially those I love. However, what we should always keep in mind is that there are some things we have some control over, and there are other things we have no control over whatsoever. Keeping this in mind, it would seem to me that our best course of action would be to always invest our time, energy and resources doing those things that will produce the greatest amount of happiness and satisfaction.
As what I am saying relates to the future of our nation, if history can teach us anything, I want to share a true story that may be a harbinger of things to come. You may be familiar with the saying or the concept, “From shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” If you are not, here is a good true-life example that will bring it closer to home.
There was a family who lived in the county where I grew up, who at the time was considered to be wealthy. Going all the way back to the 1930s and 1940s, the “old man” of the family had acquired a good deal of land and money and because he was a shrewd businessman, he acquired even more material possessions. In fact, before his death he owned a good percentage of all the land in the county.
When he died his sons took over the operation of the business, which included a number of different holdings. At this point, each son who received his inheritance was still the head of a very prosperous family. In a few years, however, word began to spread that there was a chink in the armor because of some bad business dealings, poor crop years and some very extravagant lifestyles. As time passed, one by one, the sons died, and the family operation was passed on to the grandchildren.
Since I was not around during these years, I don’t know all the details, and what I am saying is certainly not meant to be painful or hurtful to anyone because these were wonderful people. The sad ending to the story is that before too many more years, the family fortune was gone, and those who remained to administer it filed for bankruptcy. In summary, here was a clear-cut case of “from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.”
In just plain English, here is the best way I know to say it. The old grandfather made it, his kids managed it, and his grandkids squandered it.
There are many lessons to be learned from this true story, both from an individual standpoint and also for the future of our nation. If the world does not come to an end, history will record whether I am right or wrong, but I believe this is a good analogy of where we are as a nation.
Our nation began on July 4, 1776, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and we have had some hard times and some good times. But now, unlike the first 175 years of our nation’s history, we are drowning in a sea of red ink. We are several trillion dollars in debt.
This brings me back to my earlier question, “Have you ever thought about your place in history?”
We only live once, and when we are dead and gone, our place in history is fixed. The real question then becomes, “What are we, you and I, going to do with the time we have left?”
With God’s help, I want to do the right thing with regard to my citizenship, be loyal to this nation, stand for truth, morality and decency and work to leave something behind for future generations. If we are to survive, we need leaders, men and women, who are statesmen and not politicians.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)