Dear Next Generation: ‘A Gift Far Better Than Any Riches’

January 17, 2021 Updated: January 21, 2021

I’m the oldest of 11 children. After child number nine was born, my father was struck by severe rheumatoid arthritis. It wasn’t long before many of his joints were frozen and his fingers were twisted and immobile. He lived in excruciating pain, from his jaw down to his toes. His inability to work for over a year cost him the home in the country he’d spent four years building on weekends and evenings, all by hand with no power tools. My family struggled financially from that point on, but what we gained was priceless.

When doctors told my father he would be bedridden, he proved them wrong. He limped along and put his gnarled hands to work—mostly in painting and construction. He bought and sold cars and did stints as a salesman.

My mother mended our clothes, stretched food in some pretty creative ways, and made endless runs to the private schools my father worked, bartered and, bargained to pay for.

One Christmas, my father, short of money for gifts, made toys in our basement with leftover scraps of wood from a job—a beautiful dollhouse, a play auto shop, and many other things personalized for each child.

Things weren’t ideal, for sure. The family moved to Florida for a few months, hoping the weather would help with my father’s pain. He couldn’t find work in the Sunshine State and ended up picking oranges along with my pre-teen brothers. One day, a potato chip truck turned over close to the house and offered my father the contents. My father took the load and traded at a local grocery for nutritious fare.

My seven brothers went to work at early ages, apprenticing under my father. It was hard on them at times, but they became masters of construction and self-employment. The girls all took jobs early, too. My parents would have liked it to be different, but I don’t feel that way.

My father was upbeat in spite of it all, inspired by his faith in God. He used to say, “If I was any happier, I’d be twins.” We never knew who would be sleeping on our sofa when we woke up, because my father was prone to taking in homeless people. He was a can-do person and a doer. He expected the same of his children yet had empathy for those who struggled to pick themselves up by their bootstraps.

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Tamara Drennan’s father (C) at his son’s wedding (L). Drennan’s mother is on the right. (Courtesy of Tamara Drennan)

My father believed his children could do anything, face any challenge, rise to any occasion, and taught them by example to help others. He passed away in 2013, leaving behind 11 offspring full of confidence, determination, and compassion. That was a gift far better than any riches.

Tamara Drennan

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Please remember that no one on this earth is “Just a.” Just a waitress. Just a clerk. God created all of us equal at birth but some have more opportunities. We all started out equal but our paths went in various directions. God created us with different skills, different passions, different looks, and different talents. All people make up our wonderful world and diversity is what makes it uniquely beautiful.

Think of the best movie you ever saw. The main characters were there, but what about all the support staff? Without the support staff, the movie would not be complete or even possible.

Think about your city. Think about your city without trash service for a month or two. Soon your city would look like a rubbish heap. The “Just a trashman” didn’t show up.

Treat everyone with respect and dignity. No one is “Just a … ”

Marty Wingate

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Long ago I had a dream to retire on a nice piece of land. Maybe have a view of the mountains and a full flowing stream through our property. I longed for a large garden and maybe even horses or farm animals.

We grew up not having a lot but having what we needed. I enjoyed being barefoot all summer, picking berries, and playing in the woods. We were only entitled to what we worked for and earned. Mom taught us the importance of moral values and family right away. Dad taught us the value of work, honor, and reputation. We pursued our dreams while being realistic about our goals.

Aim higher at your target but don’t be disappointed if you fall short. It’s always better to aim higher and fall short than it is to aim low and hit your target.

As children, our parents tried to nourish us both physically and mentally. In school, we were taught in health to eat right and in church, we were taught spiritual values. Eat a balanced diet and stay active always.

My mom once said, “You don’t grow old until you sit in a rocking chair all day.” Health is what you put into it. You are what you eat, both food and exercise. And don’t forget the spiritual side, which keeps you balanced mentally and manages stress.

When I was 20, my girlfriend and I took a vacation by car some 200 miles away. At the end of our stay we ran out of cash, but, no problem ’cause I brought along my checkbook. With no credit card or any credit record, at that time, the banks wouldn’t cash my check. At one bank, a manager spoke to me with compassion and gave me some credit advice. She also cashed my mere check for 20 bucks to buy gas to get home. Even with my good credit (in my mind) I had no credit on record. I realized then this fact: “Credit is not taken, it is to be given.” At a job or in life when I performed virtuous deeds and took credit I looked like a jerk. Don’t take credit, others will see what you’ve done, and give you credit. Credit is to be given, not taken. Also don’t be stingy giving credit, it costs you nothing but makes the recipient glow!

Later in life, I was successful and did a great job, but those working under me didn’t particularly like my “Get the job done” style. Always apply yourself but strive to be a worker among workers. Relationships in a work environment are just as important as getting the job done. They don’t teach that in school. Show others that you are a gracious team member that always provides a quality product. Always give credit to others when due; even if part of the credit belongs to you. Others will always appreciate your gratitude.

I feel that I’ve accomplished much in life and learned to avoid obstacles along the way. Even in my late 40s, I was faced with adversity and had to start over again. We can do anything or be anyone we choose in life as long as we’re not throttled by an addiction. There are many self-imposed addictions that will take you over if you let them. Don’t substitute your life for selfish addictions. Rise above being a victim in life. Become a victor and rise above any cloud that blurs your vision. When you feel you are a victim, get up and keep moving forward to become the victor. You’re only defeated when you are down and you choose not to get up.

And as far as success goes? Just be the best at whatever you do. It’s not about money or prestige, it’s about happiness, which comes from within. Embrace life and all it has to offer. Avoid nasty and negative people who will bring you down. Find a supportive church group. Stay close to relatives and friends who have positive attitudes.

Most importantly: Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone but don’t compromise your moral values in doing so. Be spontaneous, create once in a lifetime moments and memories. Many of my most precious memories are the result of spontaneity. Don’t lose sight of your dreams, they are what keep you going. In both good times and bad they shine a light on your desires and ambitions. Close your eyes and bring life to your dreams, and they will give hope and meaning to your life. Remember, life is short, hold close to the ones you love.

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A misty morning in the mountains of North Carolina, where Ron Blechner lives. (Courtesy of Ron Blechner)

I am now retired, living on a nice parcel of land in the mountains of North Carolina. We have a beautiful mountain view and a full flowing stream through our property. Our large garden is big enough to grow for ourselves with plenty to share. I spend my mornings watching the fog burn out the valley.

And I don’t wear shoes anymore, just like when I was a child …

I’m living a dream.

Ron Blechner (Ron E B Barefoot in the Mts of NC)

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Dear Next Generation,

This will be short. I’m in my 80s, and after going through two wars, many protests, and many letters in defense of this country, I’m asking you to take up the gauntlet. If you are reading The Epoch Times, I am pretty sure of where your values lie, so please do what you can to save the country.

Thomas Bryan

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What advice would you like to give to the younger generations?

We call on all of our readers to share the timeless values that define right and wrong, and pass the torch, if you will, through your wisdom and hard-earned experience. We feel that the passing down of this wisdom has diminished over time, and that only with a strong moral foundation can future generations thrive.

Send your advice, along with your full name, state, and contact information to NextGeneration@epochtimes.com or mail it to: Next Generation, The Epoch Times, 229 W. 28th St., Floor 7, New York, NY 10001