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On conservation: There is more than one way to look at the past
I gave a Dharma talk a while ago mentioning briefly the pleasure and safety of growing up in the 1950’s. There were few cars on streets. We played football, tennis and cricket on the street, stayed out after dark, and, even at the tender age of five years, walked to and from school.
We lived on a post war built council house estate, called New Addington, but often known locally as Hard-Up Hill, since it was very difficult to buy goods on the knock (ie. on credit) in the nearby town of Croydon, 15 miles south of London, England.
After the talk, a participant said to me: “Christopher, it is a sign of getting old if you start showing nostalgia about the past.”
My sister sent me this email recently which she received. At the risk of sounding even older, here it is with a little adaption.
THE CASHIER AND THE CUSTOMER
“Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.
The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my day”.
The cashier responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”
The customer admitted the cashier was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing.
The customer remembered:
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books. But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.
We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a car every time we had to go to the nearby shops. But the cashier was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.
Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies (diapers) because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days.
Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in various rooms. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a whopping great screen.
In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.
Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.
We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.
We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.
We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.
Back then, most people took a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their parents into a 24-hour taxi service.
We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest restaurant.
The current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then.”
The cashier and customer remind us that there is more than one way to look at the past.
Live wisely for the present and future generations.