Dear Next Generation: ‘It is love that is the flashlight that illuminates the path we should tread’

February 28, 2021 Updated: March 1, 2021

I am in my 76th year, married for 47 years to my soulmate, with two children, of whom I am immensely proud, and three beautiful grandchildren, all of whom live within walking distance of our home.

My formative years were spent in England, a country vividly displaying the physical and psychological effects of a world war. Deprivation and delayed gratification were common for all. No sugar, little meat, we used salt in our porridge; not much heat in the winter, judicious use of earnings. I used a slate for a couple of years at school before graduating to paper, pen, and inkwell. Underclothes were made of wool. My parents were people of faith and we all attended church weekly. There was no TV in England for most people till the ’50s, so outdoor sports and indoor games were the norm. My formative years were fleeting and I was hurled into a fast-changing world with one foot in the rather safe and predictable past, and the other firmly planted in the future.

It was the past that directed my disciplined, honest, moral, courteous, and caring way of life. I believed family was paramount, patriotism important, and faith a goal. The ’60s were the most tumultuous years, but I survived while I witnessed the steady destruction of most of what I believed. Fortunately, faith came to my rescue. It insulated me from the “progressive” environment while successive “feel-good” generations were formed by people, including myself. I never succumbed to the diseases of addiction through drugs or sex. More importantly, I became personally acquainted with the scriptures of Jesus Christ, The Word, and found this to be the most compelling self-help book of life. I regret that my education never explained to me my purpose in life, that I was born intentioned to follow two rules—love God and love my neighbor. It is love that is the flashlight that illuminates the path we should tread, and God is the source of that light. Everything I need to know is found in that exclusive premise.

Randal Agostini
Satellite Beach, Florida

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To the Next Generation:

“What are you reading this week?” This is a question that I often ask younger folks, and I get a blank stare or a non-answer amounting to “I don’t have time to read.” Did you forget about reading books? Do you read for information and knowledge or entertainment and enjoyment? I seem to remember all those parenting suggestions to read to your children to instill a love of reading. My suggestion to the next generation is to read—books, magazine articles, short stories, free e-books.

Reading text messages, tweets, and Instagram is not reading. Try various genres: biographies, memoirs, history, fitness and health, military, self-help, historical novels, mystery, thrillers, pop culture, religion, teen scene, parenting, leadership, current events, politics, and so much more to enrich your world and educate yourself. If life circumstances prevent traveling, read about the places that interest you. A book can “take you there.” The internet is wonderful for a quick search, but it cannot replace a good book.

Reading is relaxing and enriching; it exercises your brain. Every piece of new information you store in your brain creates new brain pathways and strengthens your memory. An exciting novel can take you to a different world, while an interesting short article will distract you from the stress and tension of the day. Reading fills your brain with new information, expanding your awareness of various subjects, thus making you a more interesting person even if just for casual conversation. The more you read, the better your vocabulary and your ability to write resulting in better communication skills and more self-confidence. Reading helps you focus; helps you relax; helps build your analytical thinking skills. Reading can be free entertainment. Read about Andrew Carnegie, who gave the nation the gift of our library system. Reading allows you to accumulate a treasure that can never be lost or taken away from you.

Christine O’Loughlin
Columbia, Maryland

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Dear Next Generation,

During the pandemic, I have read several articles about how people were becoming lonely, isolated, anxious, and depressed. Not just sick physically from COVID-19 but emotionally and psychologically ill from the social distancing and the lack of human interaction and connection.

Over the most recent years of my life, I have come to realize how important my church family is. As I grow older my relatives whom I have been close to pass on or move away. They are sorely missed and cannot be replaced; there is a void in their absence from my life. My church family, however, is continuously being replenished. As older folks pass on or go into nursing homes—which has its restrictions during COVID-19—or younger ones move away, new church members come in.

I belong to a group of volunteers from our church, which along with other church members and temple members, feed and clothe the poor and the homeless. When the pandemic hit, some skeptics asked us if we were going to continue feeding the homeless and the poor. We actually had to double our efforts as some local groups backed off due to the seriousness of the virus.

My wife and I have been more involved and active in our community now than before the pandemic. All of this being said, we wear masks, continuously wash our hands, and social distance. No member of our outreach group has gotten COVID-19 from those we serve nor have we transmitted it to those we serve.

So my advice to the next generation is to get involved in helping others; whether it is through a church, synagogue or mosque, or other outreach group. When we could no longer see our grandchildren due to the COVID-19 restrictions, we read bedtime stories to them over FaceTime. Of course with Zoom, cellphones, and the internet, there are many ways to reach others.

Recently we started a food pantry at a local residence that houses 70 previously homeless people. Every month we deliver food from our local food bank, thousands of pounds each month. We get a group of volunteers to package the goods in their community room and help deliver them to their rooms. It is so rewarding to see their eyes light up and to hear their gratefulness. After all, “it is in giving that we receive.”

Rick Costanzo,
Cleveland, Ohio

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Advice for the Next Generation:

Much has already been offered that is so very true and good. Our thoughts to add:

1. Always be honest especially with yourself. Learn to identify your true feelings and where they come from. If they are not what you desire, perhaps they come from self-centered expectations or incomplete information. Seek a trusted source with whom you can share your thoughts, one who is impartial to your frame of thinking.

2. Follow simple morality. Don’t cause other people or yourself damage by your words or actions.

3. Pick exceptional role models who have positive traits that you would like to emulate. Someone who smiles a lot and gives service to others would be a good place to start if you don’t give service or smile.

4. Take time with the older generation. Learn from them. Ask questions.

Bill and Lani Reynolds
Camarillo, California 

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belinda stanley
Belinda Stanley in France in 1970. (Courtesy of Belinda Stanley)

In 1969, at age 16, I was offered the opportunity to spend a summer in France with my teacher, her family, and three other girls. I eagerly asked my parents if this was something they would consider. They agreed; if I could raise the money for my airfare and incidental expenses, they would pay for my room and board. I would be having a true immersion experience for eight weeks, for $800 for room and board.

I worked at a Woolworth’s store as a cashier on Saturdays and three nights a week, and was paid minimum wage ($1.60 in 1969–70 ). With my earnings, I bought my airline ticket and most of the clothes that I would need. Several months later, the day came to buy traveler’s checks for my room and board. I heard my mom and dad talking, discussing the fact that they were having some financial difficulties and they didn’t know where they would find the money.

My father was a building contractor, a business which is often feast or famine. He would not back down on the deal that they had made with me, however. He sold a practically new trailer for much less than what he had paid for it. I will never forget the day he called me into his room, opened his wallet, and counted out eight $100 bills into my hand.

The trip was the experience of a lifetime, but what I remember most is my parents’ love and the sacrifices they made to make it happen for me. The other girls did not have to earn part of their expenses. Their parents paid for everything; however, I think that I got the most out of the experience. Fifty years later I can still picture that special moment when my dad kept his part of the bargain.

Belinda Stanley
Helotes, Texas
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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