Legacy

fullsizeoutput_b0When I was a kid, I often heard my grandparents talk about the Great Depression.  I grew up knowing that my grandfather felt very fortunate to be a dentist, because that was something that was always needed, even in hard times.  He had to keep his prices extremely low, but he said he was grateful to be able to earn enough to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.  I knew that my grandmother always made sandwiches for the people who knocked on their door, asking for help.  She said she didn’t have any money to spare, but she could make sure that no one went away hungry.

Listening to those stories shaped how I understood my grandparents.  I grew up knowing that they were grateful for what they had, and willing to share with others in need.  I’m sure they had their moments of worry, fear and frustration as they lived through those dire times, but my general impression was that they were essentially strong and caring people.

I know we will be talking about this current pandemic for a long time to come, and that for many of us, this will be the defining crisis of our lives.  And that made me wonder what I’ll be able to say about how I coped with this, and even more importantly, how I’ll know I reacted to it.

When this is over (and it will be, even though no one knows exactly when), I’m going to look back on this time and ask myself, “Was I brave or fearful?  Was I wise or foolish?  Did I make the best of a bad situation, or did I made a bad situation even worse?”  And I’m going to have to live with those answers for a very long time.

I know I won’t always like my own answers, if I’m brave enough to be completely honest with myself.  I’ve had my moments of fear, frustration and self-pity, and I suspect that most everyone else has too.  We’re human, and we can’t possibly be strong all the time, especially with a crisis that just seems to go on and on.  But when I’m feeling down, it does help to remember my grandparents and how they somehow managed to stay in touch with their best selves even at a time when it must have seemed as if their entire world was falling apart.

And so I’ll try to do the same.  I’ll try to find things to be grateful for, every single day.  I’ll resist the urge to lash out at others who say things that “trigger” my own fears, and I’ll refuse to use this pandemic as an excuse to attack those whose politics, religion, or any other belief system is different from mine.  I won’t remind anyone that their predictions about how this crisis was going to play out were wrong.  And most importantly, I won’t let the uncertainty about how long this will last and how much damage it will do to our society to push me into stockpiling supplies so that others have to do without.

Because some day I will be asked about how I handled this dark time, and I’d like to think that I learned a thing or two from my grandparents. Which means that I want to follow their example, and try to stay in touch with my best self too.

108 thoughts on “Legacy

    • You’re right, after the war in England was a very tough time, not to mention during the war! I’m so sorry your granddaughter has it, I can’t imagine how worrying that must be. I pray for a full and speedy recovery!

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  1. So beautifully and thoughtfully spoken, Ann, as always. I was blessed with a Great Depression legacy of strength and prudence and compassion for the other guy, too. We’re all going through a bunch of feelings and responses, so if we can learn to be kind to ourselves when we feel we don’t measure up, I think we’ll wind up having done much more right than wrong. Thank you for your huge heart and your tender spirit.

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    • Thank you! And I agree, learning to be kind to ourselves when we do react badly is essential, because remembering that we’re all frail at times enables us to be strong at other times, and to have the strength to be kind to others. So many people are going “above and beyond” right now, and that cheers me up immensely. Sometimes I read a blog post, or get a phone call from a friend at just the right time, and then I remember all over again how important it is to support each other at times like these!

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  2. I think I will take away a newfound humility. I never did imagine us humans were top of the food chain to begin with, but now I realize what a delicate balance there is to life. Be humble and gracious, best you can.

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    • Yes, times like these remind us just how fragile life is, and how much we really are dependent on each other. Humbling for sure…and exactly the time to be kind and gracious. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. I grew up with parents who lived through the Great Depression. From that experience they were realistic about how people behave when stressed and how important it is to be frugal. I’m beginning to see people lose their cool in light of this virus, but am finding that I’m grateful for my “waste not, want not” childhood. I, too, wonder how I’ll reflect back on these times in years to come, but just for today I’ll be grateful.

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    • Yes, some people are being pushed beyond their limits, whether it’s from the stress of being exposed to this virus, or knowing someone who has it or has died from it, or from the devastating impact the restrictions have had upon their lives. That’s why I think it’s so important to be intentional about finding a coping mechanism that works for us. For me, remembering what my grandparents went through and yet knowing they went on to live good lives helps a lot. So does finding things to be grateful for, and limiting my exposure to the negativity. We each have to find our own way, and help each other out whenever and wherever we can. Thanks for the comment!

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    • I love that book, even though it is so sad. But it’s one of those books that, once you’ve read it, it sticks with you for life. Another one in that category is Elie Wiesel’s “Night.” It’s impossible to read something like that and not feel more compassion for others, I think. Thanks for the comment, Alan!

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  4. I think most of us are doing the best we can. I am so grateful to be able to shelter safely at home and realize that so many don’t have that option, or are the true heros and choose to put themselves on the front lines. I am happy to say that I have seen mostly kindness, love, generosity, gratitude, and forgiveness (for ourselves and others) the last several weeks, and it gives me hope.

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    • I know! Some don’t even have a home, others are essential workers and must go to work every day no matter what. I’ve seen mostly kindness and caring, but have seen some people lash out and a bit of the “everyone for themselves” attitude. I think that natural when people are stressed and don’t know how things will play out. Still, the overall response is positive and that’s very reassuring to me too!

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  5. None of us will ever be remembered for what we had/possessed. All of us will be remembered for what we did/didn’t do! History (any given gravestone/memorial plaque/obituary) supports that perspective and yet so many are still driven materialistically and totally self-serving. COVID-19 is providing us with the opportunity to show our “true colours”.

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  6. Anne, each time you write, I’m tempted to respond, “Wow!! Best one yet!!” Honestly, I think this is your finest writing, or at least in the top three. You’ve given us all a lot to think about over the years, and especially today. Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to share your thoughts with us, it really makes a difference, especially at times like these. Our love to you all and God Bless.

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    • Thank you so much, Bomi! You comment is a gift to me, because every time I write a post, I’m running the risk that people won’t understand or like what I have to say, so it helps to know that someone relates to it and that it has helped them. That’s what communication is all about: building bridges. I can’t wait until this is over and we can all get together again, but until then please accept our love and best wishes for you all too!!!

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      • I’m a dummy!! (According to you-know-who!)

        I’m so sorry for spelling your name wrong, and do know better! Although, in my defense, I was raised in the British school system and am used to puttying extra vowels into words (Anne, colour, etc.)… same for a couple of your other respondents.

        🥰🥰🥰

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        • You are FAR from a dummy! And no worries, lots of people spell my name wrong, because it is often spelled with an “e” and it’s pronounced the exact same way. I never mind it at all!

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  7. Thanks for the helpful ideas, Ann. An old Danish philosopher once said, “life can only be understood backwards; but, it must be lived forwards”. Stay well!

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    • I haven’t heard that before, but it’s so true. If only we could move forward knowing what we will know someday! But it doesn’t work that way, so all we can do is our best. I hope you and your family stay safe and well too!

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  8. This will be the true test of humanity. The problem is, no one will remember. People’s memories are short lived. What do many think of 9/11 now? What do people think of the gas situation in the 79s? The hostage crisis? The recessions? This is a defining moment because it’s effects have been wide spread, but I read a blog the other day by someone who said this event hasn’t effected her at all….we take the lessons we want to take, not necessarily what we should take. Great post btw

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    • You’re right tend to move on to the next thing so quickly, that the lessons we can learn from these times of crisis are never fully learned. I do think we’ll realize the need for a viable plan to deal with a nation or world-wide pandemic: a reserve team of medical professionals, the ability to quickly add hospital beds, and (hopefully) the need to make more medical supplies and equipment in our own country, etc. But so many of the true lessons will be lost eventually, especially once we’ve filtered out the ones we’d rather not learn. I guess we just have to be happy with “baby steps” forward. Thanks for that insightful comment!

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      • I hope you’re right. As of now, I see too,any divided people and I think remaining divided will be a bigger draw than uniting to come up with a solution. Alas, I’m just down on humanity right now as I think I’ve dropped the vast majority of people on Facebook (both sides) because what they’re concerns are are ludicrous….

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        • I couldn’t agree more. What upsets me the most about our current situation is how many people are using it as an excuse to attack their political enemies and advance their own agenda. We are not coming together as a country at all, which is slowing down the things we should be doing to cope and recover from this. It’s beyond frustrating! But both sides are “dug in” and not going to budge an inch……

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  9. Ann, thank you! I want to be able to look back and say I’d lived my best when things were not. I have to keep asking myself your questions and give myself a do over when the pandamic doesn’t bring out the best of me. Stay well!

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    • We all do, Lorie! We need to remind ourselves to be intentional about our response and to be gentle with ourselves on those times when we do feel overwhelmed and upset. It’s okay to feel that way, we just have to be careful not to let those feelings dictate our words and actions, I think. Being our best selves doesn’t mean perfect, it just means our personal best….flaws and all! Thank you so much for your supportive comment, and I hope you and your family stay safe and well.

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  10. My grandfather was a butcher during the depression and his boss wold allow him to take the trimmings home to his family (extended -4 generations in the house). It kept them alive and fed… Still there were times when food was scarce. The minister from the church came to visit once and after he left my Great grandmother found a dime in the sofa cushions… it provided bread and milk for the week. She would never have accepted charity but that “lost coin” made all the difference.

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    • What a nice gesture! Giving help while allowing the recipient to maintain their dignity was a good call. Those little things make such a difference. Thanks for sharing that story!

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  11. I must thank you for the calming effect your posts have on me. It is wonderful of you to remember your grandparents, and the values they cherished and lived by. They were surely discerning and compassionate folks, the kind who are becoming a rarity in our times of naked materialism. The year 2020 is forever going to be remembered as the Year of the Virus, and the Shock that would but transform many a life. I hope we will have learned our lessons that we have only forgotten, and could have easily recollected them from the nobler folks we have had in the past.

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    • Thank you for your affirming words! I’m glad my writing can provide even a little ease of the stress of these times. I agree that this year will be remembered for the pandemic, and that the best we can hope is that we learn some lessons from it. And I agree that sadly, those lessons were available all along if only we had paid attention.

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  12. You are able to write what many of us feel. We, boomers and on, have been very fortunate to live during a relatively good era. I have also been thinking about my grandparents who were alive during the 1918 flu, WWI, Great Depression and WWII when they had to send their sons off to war. They adapted and made it through. I know we will adapt to this also and come out of it with lessons learned.

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    • Thank you! Usually, I believe in looking forward. But honestly, I find the best way to cope with this is to look back, and see how our ancestors coped with huge hardships of their own. Because you’re right: after Viet Nam (which didn’t effect everyone), we boomers haven’t had to deal with huge hardships in our lives. So we’re kind of unprepared for the challenges and sacrifices we’re having to make now.

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  13. Thank you for sharing your precious memories of your grandparents with us! They survived the Great Depression with courage and the proper attitude of not giving up in times of trouble and adversity. Your grandparents set an excellent example for us to follow. Have a great day, Ann!

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    • Thank you Peter! And reading your blog with so much detailed information about the hardships they endured during and after WWII, I know you have many good examples to follow in your family too!

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      • Most of the information for my family history comes from a book written in German by a distant cousin. The hard part is the translation into English. But it is worth it as a family record for our children and grandchildren, and for my blogging friends like you, Ann.

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  14. Thanks for your keen perspective as usual Ann. The comparison to our ( us Boomers) parents and grandparents will be part of this story over many years to come. Times are so different one would think we’d be better prepared as a world society, or at least as a nation, to have either avoided so many deaths and such rapid spread. It should remind us that as powerful a nation we are, as much technology that we have, and even with such powerful communication tools that did not exist during years past, we are vulnerable. I think it also demonstrates how imperative it is to get beyond politics and borders and work together not as a nation but as a global community.
    Be safe and be well!

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    • Thanks, Michael! And I agree, this pandemic showed us where we are vulnerable, as a nation and as a global community. We must do better, because there will be another virus eventually, even after we’ve figured out how to beat this one. Working together is the key. And I wish I saw more of that in our own nation!

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  15. Some great ideas here, Ann. I’m also thankful for my grandparents’ and that generation’s recollections of the Great Depression. Those stories seem more relevant today than ever. In my opinion, being grateful for what little they had and for the eventual return to normalcy was a defining characteristic of that generation.

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    • I think it was. And the thing to remember is that their lives did go on, and so will ours. I hear so many people saying that this will never go away, but I honestly believe they are wrong. Yes, the virus is here to stay, but we will come up with a vaccine and treatment. And meanwhile, we’ll figure out how to keep ourselves going without putting so many people at risk. (We’d figure it out quicker if our leaders would quick blaming and bickering, but sadly, this happened in an election year. Not good timing at all!)

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    • Thanks, Donna! I really hope that it does. There is a silver lining to every cloud, and I do think that we will learn some lessons from this as a society. And even if we don’t, we most certainly can learn from it as individuals and then use what we have learned to try to form a better society.

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  16. Simple words but packed with power. Your post made me realise that my kids will look back on this time some day…. and what memories would they treasure? What lessons learned?

    To some extent, that is in my power to determine and I must not let it slip through. This time of sheltering has its dark splotches. But it is also a gift that must not be returned to the Giver unappreciated.

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    • I agree! There is a lot of bad in the this time of sheltering, but there are gifts in it too. We just have to look for them and to use them. Only then can we appreciate and learn from this time, which is the very best way to cope, I believe.

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  17. Once again, you get to the “heart” of the matter, Ann. Beautifully written. You’re right, we are all going to have to face ourselves in the mirror when this is over and we’re not going to be able to escape what we see.

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    • Thank you so much, George. Remembering my grandparents and realizing that I’m going to have to live with my choices for a long time helps keep me on track. Or at least get back on track when I veer off, as I do from time to time!

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    • There is something wrong between your blog and mine, but I have no idea why. Because I’ve hit the “follow” button several times on yours, but your posts never show up in my inbox. And now you’re having trouble reading mine! I wish I understood more about how this works so I could fix it.

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    • Thank you, Linda! I think it’s important to try to be our best selves, remembering that “best” is not “perfect.” But as long as we are trying our best, then years from now when we look back on this time, we’ll have no regrets about how we handled it. And if we’re really wise, we will have learned from it too.

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  18. You’re right, Ann. Our grandparents had a lot harder time of it, I think. The inconvenience of having to stay at home is small compared to what people living through the Depression had to deal with. As long as we stay healthy we can deal with the rest, even economic uncertainty, I hope. Great post 🙂

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  19. My parents lived through the Depression, as well as my grandparents, and there’s no question that many of my coping skills were formed by observing and emulating qualities they exhibited. On the other hand, I have memories, too. I grew up in the days when polio was rampant: when swimming pools were closed in summer, when classmates walked with metal crutches, and iron lungs were familiar to everyone. I remember standing in line to receive one of the first doses of polio vaccine on a sugar cube, and how excited we all were. On the other hand, through it all, life went on.

    I remember rheumatic fever, and measles and mumps, and the quarantine signs in the windows of homes. I remember how common scarlet fever was, and I remember being told again and again: wash your hands, don’t share food or dishes, and cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze. Sound familiar?

    As an adult, I lived with malaria and caught malaria. I lived for years with the possibility of catching other tropical diseases, even as I was vaccinated for smallpox and yellow fever — and yet, here I am.

    What we’re enduring is hard, but (and here comes my probably unpopular opinion) to a certain degree it’s being made worse by people who seem determined to convince us that no one ever has endured such a thing, and that our ability to survive it is uncertain. I wonder if some people are panic-stricken simply because we’ve had it so easy, for so many years. While the rest of the world has lived with various epidemics for decades, we’ve been spared. Now, it’s come to us, too. That’s where I’m in complete agreement with you. How we respond will be part of the history that younger generations will remember, and I hope they remember us for a response that’s both reasonable and admirable.

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    • Thank you so much for this comment! I read a post that reminded us of the things we have endured in the past as well, pointing out that while each brought its challenges, none of them were the end of the world. And you have illustrated that so well in this comment. I agree that we have been spared epidemics in the past decades, which gave us a false sense of security that it “couldn’t happen here.” I also agree that the voices of doom make it worse, suggesting that this is the worst thing that has happened, ever, and that it will never end. It isn’t, and it will. Meanwhile, we have to be strong and do our best to set a good example for the generations to come. Because some day, they will ask us about this time, and we don’t want to be ashamed of our answers. Thank you again for sharing your insights!

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  20. Ann, forgive me, but I scrolled through all the comments to add mine so if this was addressed I apologize but I am so far behind on my reading of blogs and I want to make sure I am touching each of my blog friends the way they have touched me over the last three years. With love and support in a difficult time. I started blogging to bridge a gap I felt in my life. Don’t we all feel a bit lost once we transition from work life to retired life and making that jump to a foreign country left me feeling pretty isolated. I am not a very social person to I don’t “need” the constant affirmation from others but friends I do need. I found friends in the blog world that fit my gap. For me it is now time to help those who helped me. It is a circle and it is important for each of us to send the love in to those we care about most. Love and prayers of ZEN in your coming days.

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    • Thanks so much, Paula! I imagine that retiring and moving to another country at the same time must have been a huge adjustment, and I’m glad that blogging helped fill the gap. I’ve also found that blogging friends have helped me cope with these difficult times, as their insights and support give me strength and reassurance. Thank you for being one of those terrific blogging friends!

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  21. It’s going to be interesting how we look back on this period.

    We live in a rural area, so when WW2 came along my grandparents took in the children of siblings/cousins who lived in/near cities to keep them safe. They only had a small cottage, but from what I’ve been told it must have been barely any room to move.

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    • I’ve heard about that practice, and am so impressed that people were willing to accept children they had never met into their homes to keep them safe. That’s the sort of sacrifice that is long remembered! And I can’t imagine how much the parents much have appreciated it. I’m sure your proud of your grandparents, as you should be. Thanks for this comment!

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  22. You are a better woman than me, Anne, because I have trouble refraining from speaking to the politics, even though I try to stay positive. I can’t help it, it’s like a disease! I remember stories my grandmother used to tell me about growing up during the depression, how blessed her family was because both her parents had work. How people would ask to borrow money and her father would give it to them when he could, but tell them it was a gift they didn’t have to pay back, not a loan, but to never ask him for money again. This way he and the other wouldn’t have the awkwardness or bad feelings from owing and not being able to pay back and he wouldn’t have the same people constantly asking. It sounds like you are wise like your grandparents.

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    • It’s good to hear from you again, Kim! And what wise people your great-grandparents were, to give a one-time gift of money, rather than a loan. From what I know of the Depression, people helping each other like that is the only way many of them survived it. I’m glad your grandmother shared those stories with you…they’re the kind of thing that should be passed on. It’s part of where we get our moral compass, I think. Thanks for the comment…I was excited to see it!

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  23. What a kind post filled with compassion and acceptance. Yes, we’re all human and yes, we all have our moments of angst and frustration but it’s always good to remember legacies of special people who have struggled with their own hardships and thrived. Gratitude really is the answer. Take care Ann. 🙏

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    • Thanks, Miriam! Remembering those who came before does help, because we not only know that they endured hardships, but that there’s life was good again when those times were over. It gives us the hope we need. Meanwhile, we are grateful for what we have, including blogging friends who share their travel adventures with us….like you!

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  24. How sweet of your grandmother to make sandwiches for those who came to her door. I hope that this pandemic has a little bit of a silver lining, Ann, that it makes us more aware of how many people are struggling and lack the resources that many of us enjoy. I hope that we prioritize differently when we come out of this, and that the world becomes a little kinder, a little more caring. A lovely post and legacy. ❤

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    • I know I’ll never take my freedom to come and go as I please, and pick just which restaurant I’d like to go to for dinner for granted ever again! And it does help me remember that people used to have it even worse. Not because I’m comparing, but because they endured it, got through it, and life really was good again. Different, in some ways, but good. And that gives me hope.

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  25. What a wonderful and inspiring post, Ann! Your grandparents were exceptional in their attitude and a role model to all of us. I’d also like to be able to say that from myself when this is all over, so I give my best to be grateful every day too, and to help where I can. Sewing masks and making little surprise packets for friends are some of the things I do to keep morale up so to speak. 😊

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    • Sewing masks is huge! Everyone needs them right now, and not everyone can make their own. I have two that a friend sewed for me, and I am so grateful. And yes, when I find myself feeling down, I remember my grandparents and what their generation went through. It especially helps to remember that the depression didn’t last forever, and that when it was over, they went on to have good and happy lives!

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