Yesterday was a sad day for me and my family as we attended the funeral of my Dear Uncle Mike. During my lifetime, I have never known a kinder, more generous or giving individual than my Uncle Mike. He was a W.W. II veteran who served his country in France as a young Medic. His exposure to the sick and wounded there resulted in a terrible illness that forced him to suffer for four years in an Army hospital. Yet there was never a mention of bitterness, for the pain and suffering he endured, as he defended the freedom of his country. He was a proud veteran who was proud of his military service and loved his country.
Uncle Mike never married during his 85 years. He was a totally devoted son, brother, and uncle to a happy and loving family. He was the Godfather to scores of children and took his role very seriously. He always gave the best presents and most generous gifts to everyone for every possible occasion and found great joy in doing so. However, it did not have to be an occasion, for Uncle Mike to surprise you with a generous gift. He helped fund the education of many of his nieces and nephews in his own small way, by always slipping them book money or spending money whenever he had the opportunity to do so.
During his life, Uncle Mike always found pleasure in teaching his nieces and nephews. He was a well read man who was equivalent to a walking encyclopedia. Get in his company and you could expect a conversation from how the light bulb was invented to how hurricanes formed. He loved to teach and give and enrich the lives of those he loved. He touched so many people in so many ways, always putting the needs of others before his own.
I’m sure you know individuals just like Uncle Mike. Many years ago I was bragging about Uncle Mike to one of my business partners and a big smile appeared on his face as he listened. He then told me all about an uncle of his that eerily sounded exactly like my uncle. Then he asked me to guess his uncle’s name. It was Mike! His uncle was around the same age; never married and had exactly the same qualities as mine. We both smiled and were so thankful for these great individuals that had touched our lives in so many ways.
Uncle Mike was part of “The Greatest Generation” as described in Tom Brokaw’s best selling book. I listened to the book on audio tape and really enjoyed it. I could easily identify and appreciate the great qualities of these individuals, because I grew up and was raised by the members of this generation. Many of the values they lived by, if practiced today - would surely solve many of the challenges we are presently faced with.
The Greatest Generation knew how to strive for a better life. They faced a Depression and World War that called for many sacrifices. They faced severe hardships that we can’t fathom today. And those hardships were the driving force that gave them the will to improve the lives of those they loved at any cost to themselves. This generation provided the family structure to be raised in a loving and caring environment. They taught us how to share and be kind and generous human beings. They passed on religious traditions and values that helped their children and grandchildren to become responsible and caring adults and productive citizens of a great nation.
One of the most overlooked gifts that this generation provided to our society, was the capital they accumulated by their will to save. Because they were astute savers, the capital they accumulated provided the seed money for companies to form and grow, which gave us the ability to prosper today. No one saved as much as this generation. They knew how to live and be satisfied and content with what they had. They did not need the latest and greatest model of everything that came down the road. One example of their thriftiness might be -- when their shoes showed signs of wearing, they would rather have taps put on the heels and soles to extend the life of the shoes and then deposit any extra cash in the bank for a rainy day. That accumulation of cash from this group of savers gave future generations of average people a lifestyle that only the very wealthy enjoyed sixty years ago.
During the past few years, I have attended the funerals of too many individuals from the Greatest Generation. These were all men and women who contributed in so many ways to make our lives more meaningful and definitely more comfortable. We should all try to learn as much as we can about this generation and do our best to bring back some of the values and traditions that enabled us to get where we are today. If not, the memories of their great sacrifices will have been forgotten and future generations will not be able to benefit as we have. If you have a loved one in your family like Uncle Mike, why not give them a phone call today to let them know how much you love them. It can be one of the most meaningful gifts you can give, during this holiday season!