Lost connection to younger generations

Monday, December 8, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:19 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Some friends who moved to the country about 30 years ago were complaining last week about how complex country living had become. They admitted when they first moved outside the city limits they had bought into a rather idealized version of what rural life would be like. They visualized rich wooded areas, lush with animal and plant life and broad vistas of wide-open spaces where neighbors were few and far between.

And for a long time, it was much like they had envisioned, worth the cost of digging the well and stringing the electrical and telephone wires, maintaining their own road and supporting the organization of fire and ambulance districts. But little by little, progress bore down on them and threatened to overtake their way of life as developments began to spring up all around them. Before long, it was just like they were living back in the city, without the services.

Whatever the location, the business of finding a good place to live seems to gain more possible disadvantages every year. When I hear potential young homeowners talking about buying a house today, the conversation is a lot different than it was when I was in the market for my first home. My primary concern was getting into a home that we could afford, where my family would be comfortable. Now, it’s primarily about property values and making certain the house you buy today can be sold for at least twice as much a few years from now.

Looking at real estate as an investment has obviously changed the way some people view home ownership. Living in a nice neighborhood once meant living around congenial people, who kept their grass mowed, their house painted and their children and pets in their own yards most of the time. For investors, however, a nice neighborhood is one that has a strong neighborhood association that enforces the rules religiously to protect property values and neighbors who remained focused on that priority for as long as they live in the neighborhood.

More and more, I find myself waking up to an American population that I no longer recognize in many ways. The current attitude toward home ownership is just one of them. Other examples abound. It’s not just that I can no longer relate to the parents of children from two to 22, there are apparently whole contingents of women from whom I am alienated. There seems to be hardly anything about popular culture with which I can identify. No matter how many times I pinch myself, I keep waking up in a state of confusion.

I admit I have no experience, for example, with children who don’t go to school because they don’t want to. I really don’t know what to do with teenagers who come and go as they please and have no respect for their parents or society as a whole. If women insist on pushing little girls into womanhood at 8 years old and purchasing clothes for them that leave them partially nude in public, I don’t see that there is very much any of us can do to protect them.

Today’s Big Patriots keep telling us everything is right with America, and it seems that an overwhelming number of people agree with them. Detractors have learned to remain silent because it’s a losing battle to fight against Big Money, Big Media and Big Business.

But the big world is made up of little worlds, and in that arena, little people can still have influence. We have influence within our families, within our circle of friends, within our area of responsibility. Certainly, we cannot hope to change the world, but we can affect the quality of our lives. We see many young adults emerging into the world in direct contrast to media models, carrying with them all the virtues, faith and ethics taught them by their parents, dedicated teachers and morally committed community leaders.

These are the people we must continue to nurture and nourish, lest they be overpowered by Big Everything. We must continue to support local community organizations who seek to instill the kind of values in young people that make it OK to be themselves and let them know they don’t have to be bullies or retreat from bullying to lead successful lives. Unless the little people continue to believe that good will ultimately overcome evil and keep acting accordingly, we will all be swept under.

Members of Big Crime can afford to maintain their homes in any neighborhood, so that property values will increase. And I suspect there are as many people who would be happy to live next door to them as there are residents in a mid-size state.

Most days, though, I think it’s just as well that I can’t identify with popular culture. I’m old enough to still believe in quitting while I’m ahead.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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