Dear Next Generation: ‘All of Life Is a Ceremony’

May 3, 2021 Updated: May 3, 2021

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Many believe we should be frank and outspoken, to get right to the point without phoniness or too much “bull.” In the real world, however, this can be a problem when we need to win over another’s respect, whether a customer, girlfriend or boyfriend, and so on. That is when no matter how we really feel at the moment, we should put on that happy, friendly face.

One word for this response is “ceremony.” Ceremony is very important in our dealings with people. We can’t isolate ourselves from the world—although we’d often like to. Ceremony is shaping an “atmosphere,” as when dating a girl bringing flowers, or being especially charming and protective.

Ceremony isn’t being false! We wear clothes although we don’t always feel like it. We bathe to smell better. We shave, although we don’t especially want to. Ceremony is what makes a “civilized” society; it’s a social responsibility. Our feelings, moods, and emotions fluctuate, so it’s important to guard our manners and tongues to avoid offending others. Everyone uses a “mask” to some degree in order to hold back from saying or doing what may be regretted later.

“Frankness” is often the word used to cover for hostility. Some people want an honest opinion but would be insulted or hurt if you gave it. A sincere opinion can be frank, but with careful choice of words.

Ceremony doesn’t require that one be a liar. If there is nothing positive to say, we should be “diplomatic” in our reply.

A relative bursts into the room throwing out his chest bellowing, “How do you like my tie?”

It’s ugly! To avoid a conflict and to satisfy his fishing for admiration of the particular item a cloudy response can be, “Wow! It certainly is unusual.” The guest hears what he wants to hear, interpreting it as admiration.

All of life is a ceremony! Living is far more pleasant when we don the “mask”: suitable wardrobe, behavior, language, and courtesy for our everyday living performance. As William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.”

Charles Callaci

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In my personal life, I have found that it is important to try to hear and understand what others are saying and feeling. This helps you to be kind to others and to yourself.

In my work life, whatever job I had, I did to the best of my ability. I felt that I owed that to my employers, co-workers, customers, and to myself. Whatever job you have, if you do your best at it, in addition to helping others, you gain confidence and self-respect.

From the beginning, I saved a part of my earnings; it was always important to me to be able to be independent. But saving has to be balanced by treating yourself to things that are important, like travel. It’s a cliche, but it’s important to keep all parts of your life balanced.

Linda Olds, Mississippi

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In 1997, Ed and I moved to Boca Raton, Florida, for my husband’s job. Our daughters Lauren, 11, and Erica, 9, came with us.

We had been teaching them both the value of money for doing age-related chores for a handful of years. My daughters earned 50 cents a week for making their bed, cleaning up toys, putting their dirty clothes in the hamper, etc.

Each had a piggy bank in which to put their allowance. Every month, we would count the money saved. We would divide the money, and some would be for spending on desired treats and the rest would eventually get deposited into their bank account. The great advantage is that my girls could see the money growing as well as experiencing the autonomy of spending some of it on items they wanted.

In Florida, at Mizner Park, we would eat dinner and stroll along looking in all the wonderful boutiques and stores. Erica always carried her favorite stuffed animal she named “Bear.” Bear was well-loved through the years and well-dressed.

Erica always saved money to spend on outfits for Bear. Erica had already bought many items for Bear. But that day, she saw an outfit that was so remarkable, she could not take her eyes off of it. Erica had a long talk with her sister Lauren, and it was decided that Lauren would lend her money so 
that she could buy this expensive outfit for Bear. The intention was that Erica would pay the money back weekly with her earned allowance. When I heard about this, I mentioned to Erica that we should have a talk about it that evening.

Unbeknownst to Erica, she was about to go into heavy debt. Erica had no idea what that was. So it was my job to explain it to her. The cost of the outfit was $5. Erica did not have that kind of money to spend at that moment. I explained to her, in order to pay Lauren back, she would have to forgo many weeks of allowance.

It would take perhaps close to three months until she was able to pay Lauren the borrowed amount. And therefore, she would have to be willing to forgo savings, buying treats, buying nail polish, buying candy, and anything else her heart desired. Was she willing to do that just to purchase another outfit for Bear?

I asked her to spend some time thinking about it and to come to me with her answer. Two days later, Erica 
approached me and said: “Mom, I do not want to buy the outfit for bear anymore. I would rather continue saving my money so that I can afford the outfit another time and have my allowance to spend on other cheaper items.”

And that’s when the lightbulb went on for my daughter! She did not want to go into debt and have to owe money to her sister for something that was not worth it. From that day on, I knew my daughter would make wise decisions about money. She would understand how much you needed to save and spend. And as a
 rule, we do not spend money we do not have. My daughter Erica is a fiscally responsible woman today who budgets her money, saves, and remains debt-free!

Janice Clough, New York

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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