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Preserve your family history 
While your family is still around

by Dr. Cathleen McGreal

In the 1930s, teens would turn the radio dial to NBC and make up steps when Let’s Dance aired. They thronged to the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles to hear Benny Goodman. In 1938, the King of Swing played Carnegie Hall! But these dancers weren’t carefree, and life wasn’t as prosperous as their parents had envisioned it would be when they were born.

Parenting: Always a journey into the unknown

When the Great War ended, parents didn’t know it would eventually be called World War I. They envisioned a long period of peace. As families were blessed with children in the 1920s, few anticipated that each year crept closer toward the Wall Street crash. Yet World War II and the Depression shaped the lives their children would lead. The economic disaster built a generation’s sense of identity; children learned the value of a dollar and strong intergenerational bonds were forged. Parents longed to provide more, and youth were determined to help out. Adolescents listened as Martha Tilton’s voice soared next to Goodman’s clarinet, “We kiss, and the angels sing and leave their music ringing in my heart.” They were poised for the future: Finding love and wondering if dreams for work and school could be fulfilled. To their parents, the future looked grim. Having been through the “war to end all wars,” they sought comfort in prayer: “Do not be afraid, little flock.” (Luke 12:32) Parents couldn’t guarantee children rosy futures. Instead they helped children grow in relationship with God, who would always be there for them.

“He will call upon me, and I will answer him” (Psalm 91:15)

Young adults of the World War II era answered the call of their nation. Many looked beyond themselves for the strength to endure. The depth of their faith was evident then and can still be seen among today’s elderly. To deal with uncertainty and fear, they called upon the Lord and listened for God’s answers. Today’s youth are making plans for their futures in the shadow of global unrest, too. They can learn from the past. Encourage them to ask older family members to pull out old photos and to share stories of the Depression and the war. There are so many stories that haven’t been heard that will make history and faith come alive for later generations. Visits with older relatives can be fascinating when the family comes eager to listen to a storyteller. Write down the stories and make family collections. As more members of the “Greatest Generation” reach the end of their lives, a song from their youth resonates the joy of the life of the Kingdom of God: “We meet, and the angels sing, the angels sing the sweetest song I ever heard …”

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