Dear Next Generation: ‘Just Because We Can Do Something Doesn’t Mean We Should’

October 13, 2020 Updated: October 13, 2020

My name is Lee Olson and I enjoy the Epoch Times, particularly the “Next Generation” column. I have recently retired after 48 years in the grocery business, with 43 of those years as an independent, but this story comes from my youth.

I was 14 years old when I spotted a red mini-bike in a local hardware store. The bike was priced at $125. Knowing I had about half the money saved already, I set about getting the rest as fast as I could. I mowed yards for my money, and my mother set the rate at $1 per yard because, as she said, “That’s all they can afford.”

Once I knew I had enough money, I announced I was walking to that store to buy my mini-bike. My mother casually said, “I’ll go with you,” but my 14-year-old mind did not perceive the danger.

Walking into the store, I immediately went to the check stand and pulled out a wad of $1 bills. I was very proud of myself as I pushed that shiny new mini-bike across to a local gas station to fill it up and put my mom on the back and take her home. After paying for the gas, I told her to hop on and we would head home.

It was then that my mother informed me that not only was she not going to get on that bike, neither was I. She calmly said, “You haven’t done your homework on these things, but I have. You do not have a license for this bike, and you can’t get one until you’re 15, and besides that, helmets are required on city streets and neither of us has one.”

I was very angry. I asked why she let me buy something I was not allowed to use, and she calmly responded, “It’s your money, you can buy whatever you like with your money, and maybe the next time I would investigate before I made a purchase. But riding that bike without a helmet or license on city streets is against the law, and in this family, we don’t break the law.”

I have often thought of and told that story to friends and family. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. And always think before you spend your hard-earned money.

One other lesson and maybe the most important: My pride would not allow me to return to the store and get my money back, and personal pride messes everything up. It was parked for a year and a half in our kitchen (we had a very small apartment) until I sold it to a friend for half of what I originally paid.

Lee Olson


Use combat risk assessment (CRA).

I spent 33 years in uniform in two military services spanning five decades and four wars (five if you count the one in my classified jacket).

As each of our three sons entered their teens, I gave them my CRA talk:

“Before you do something that has any element of risk, ask yourself the following questions:

“What is to be gained if I succeed?

“What is the worst possible outcome and the cost of failure?

“What are the probabilities of success and failure?

“And what more can I do to maximize my probability of success?”

When I was in high school, my civilian flight instructor and mentor buzzed his family’s sandbar party in his Ryan PT-22. He misjudged his pull-up, hit a tree, and crashed, killing himself right in front of the people he so loved. Such a waste.

My advice to all young people is to use CRA if you’re at a party and someone offers you a pill she stole from her mom’s medicine cabinet; if you’re stuck behind a slow semi-trailer on a winding two-lane highway and you come to a straight stretch; or if a friend offers you a ride home, but you know he’s been drinking. Don’t die scared and stupid.

Gary Peppers


At age 61, as I’ve gone through life’s many ups and downs, I’ve been molded for love, kindness, compassion, and hard work through the foundation from my family. My grandparents came from Italy and Spain with barely anything, became citizens of this great country, and taught me everything about a good life, even more than my parents. They showed me deep love, gave anything they had to anyone who needed it, and went without.

We as a family enjoyed simple things: dinners every Sunday together, laughter, good food, accordion playing with singing and dancing together, and deep love instilled in me for each other, no matter what. They happily worked every day and enjoyed their accomplishments, had minimal education, and left school in the third and sixth grades, but were much smarter than most.

So my advice to the younger generation: You don’t need material things or status, and you aren’t entitled to anything. Just show love, kindness, compassion, and respect, and work hard always, and I’ll guarantee you’ll have more than anyone. Your life will be fulfilled always, with the true meaning of this glorious life that God gave us.

Richard Zapata


Find yourself a mentor who is experienced in life in the outdoors. If you are a young man, hopefully that mentor will be your father, uncle, or a close trusted friend of either. Keep in mind that there are thousands of women who will fit the bill as mentors. As a bonus, they will have ample equipment to share their experience.

Fishing is a good start since most of us live at least close to some fishable waters, be they a river, creek, pond, lake, or ocean. From there, you can branch out to camping or even hiking. You may even find the opportunity to go hunting as a great way to get some exercise and fill your freezer with non-processed, healthy meat for your family or friends. This, of course, will take safety training and more proper equipment.

Along the way, you might even stumble on a career choice that will provide you with the opportunity to spend your life in the outdoors as well as a proper income with multiple benefits. That being the case, be prepared to go to college and get a degree in biology and other related subjects. You can find the necessary information in any outdoor magazine or online. Once immersed in the outdoors, you will never look back.

Oh, a final note: Leave your electronic devices at home, or at least turn them off and enjoy your surroundings of the smell and adventures of the outdoors.

Dan Archuleta


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 or mail it to: Next Generation, The Epoch Times, 229 W. 28th St., Floor 7, New York, NY 10001