Becoming a New Wave Leader

Perspectives from the Greatest Generation

I have had the good fortune to visit with a few members of the Greatest Generation, parents of the Boomers. They’ve seen economic depression, the death and destruction of world war, pandemics that killed millions, and personal tragedies enough for two lifetimes. They were women, their men long gone. Each of them was a walking history book and an example of a remarkably buoyant view of life. They accepted their decline and were always ready to chat all evening long.

Ma Kren had been a family friend for over 60 years. In her last days when I inquired about her view of life, she observed, “Have fun.” Imagine! Here’s a woman who plowed through an exceedingly tough childhood. She then defied the Depression, “fought” WWII, suffered unspeakably from the early accidental death of a beloved son, and faced down about every major disease there is to have. Ma Kren had come to terms with uncommon tragedy in common hours and, in the end, pronounced life good. What an exemplary attitude. Plus, she always won at Scrabble—because she cheated, with a knowing, wry, grandmotherly smile of defiance that said, “I dare you to check that word.”

Now gone is my dear friend Betsy, all 95 years of her. Her husband Danny was my senior non-commissioned officer nearly 50 years ago. I’m honored that Betsy and “the Chief,” as she called her chief master sergeant spouse, fondly remembered me for a half-century. What an honor. She vividly recounted living near London during the Blitz of WWII. Danny was part of the Danish underground as a teenager, a twice angry bee tormenting the Nazis, risking his life. Living history. And Betsy couldn’t have been more cheerful. She’d interrupt our conversations saying, “Just a minute, lovey. I need to check if I’m still breathing.” Then she’d laugh to tears at her own joke.

How many of us have known people who have suffered horrible disfigurements, dismemberments, disabilities and yet are cheerful, full of hope, bringing light to all they touch, man and beast. Such people are perfect counterpoints to the curmudgeon who wallows in endless woe, poisoning the air around himself in a blue fog of complaints – and missing life.

Looking at obstacles as opportunities for growth helps us see that our lot is most fortunate. This is especially true for those of us born to a republic where we’re free to express our creativity, invest our sweat, exercise our will to accomplish . . . and become more. So much the better if we can mentor those who follow and leave a legacy of good.

Hope you liked this as much as I enjoyed listening to Ma Kren and The Chief’s wife.

You’ll find many more true stories of how to live the Good Life in Becoming a New Wave Leader.

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