Recently I have had the opportunity to be around senior citizens; those individuals dubbed by Tom Brokaw as the Greatest Generation. Certainly they have had their share of miscreants and slackers, to be sure. However, spend some time with them, and you will notice some character traits rise to the surface and others just aren’t there.

The first thing I notice is a propensity to take things in stride. There’s a way about them that keeps them from needlessly dwelling on irrelevant things, especially fear; and they don’t make a big deal about things. They don’t seem to participate in fear as much as the rest of the population does. There is a quality of coping with life’s problems that allows them to takes things in stride, much like an internal and automatic sort system pushing “bad news” into the delete file. This is not to say they duck and hide, they simply don’t dwell there. They get on with getting on. Call it faith or trust, they pass the worrying and fretting on to some other place, and resume in the here and now living and being interested in life, knowing it all works out.

The other quality that I notice is the lack of ego. They work together better and are ready, willing and able to see the greater good. They don’t get bogged down by personality clashes; they don’t expect them. They accept others for who they are and work with them. They know their own minds and who they are; they contribute themselves to the community, especially if asked. They also don’t spend a whole lot of time asking the meaning of life or their purpose in life. They simply accept and participate in It.

These are traits of a stronger character. Perhaps I am observing characters that have had a lifetime to grow and strengthen through some pretty tough times. The Great Depression and World War II were the growing fields of these characters. I remember hearing stories of how it was in the Depression – job sharing, food sharing – sharing, period. Then from that they were hurtled into World War II where everyone was on the same page doing whatever they could to contribute to the Good of All. Personal self-interest was not the over-riding motive for this generation, but oddly their own dreams and desires were met within these dramas.

They are also a grateful generation, taking little for granted. They notice the sunrises and sunsets, animal shapes in the clouds and laughing babies. They appreciate Life however and wherever it appears to them. They relish a home grown tomato and delight in the simple joys of life. They have kept things simple, another hallmark of Character.

As we stew in our lingering economic situation I wonder about the character of the rest of us. We, for the most part, have had it very easy growing up. Until Vietnam there wasn’t much awful happening worldwide. We enjoyed peace for the most part and unprecedented prosperity. We could have what we wanted pretty much. Now nationwide we have hit a series of major difficulties. We have problems in every direction: environmental, economic, governmental; the list goes on and on.

These times are our growing field of stronger characters. We have to Remember Who We Are, contribute that to the whole and play on the same team. We have to see that when the greater good is served first, four baskets are filled beyond our wildest imaginations with things we currently don’t value at all.

In his series The American Crisis, Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls” speaking of the American Revolution from England. He referred to individuals having to grow their Character and rise to the situation. Certainly we are in another American Crisis of similar proportion. This time what is at stake is not our freedom from England, but our freedom from our fears and limiting human-mind beliefs that foster those fears.

Our elders grew stronger as individuals when their mettle was tested, and so will we if we understand the greater opportunity here. Now is when we either go within and grow that Soul full of strong character and resilience because we know Who We Really Are, or we default on our opportunity to grow and expand our consciousness and meet our challenges. We can, of course, choose whatever we will. The road less traveled isn’t called that for nothing.

Make no mistake. What you, personally choose to do with the challenges you face in your personal life matters absolutely to the whole.

Kathy Kirk was raised in the Midwest, and has lived in MT, NY and CA . She has a BS degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from Cornell University. She is the author of two books, Well Done, and the Earthling’s Quick Start Guide – being released this spring. Her website is http://www.appliedspirituality.com Her blog, A New View, is at http://www.appliedspirituality.blogspot.com Kathy is a powerful and inspirational speaker and has spoken to such groups as North Island Naval Air Station, Qualcomm, BAE Systems, SPAWARS, Mensa, the US Post Office, Cornell University, Phoenix House and the San Diego County Libraries. She gives Seminars,Trainings and Workshops to groups and corporations on Applied Spirituality. Kathy is also available on a limited basis for private coaching. She can be reached at support@appliedspirituality.com or 619-445-0972. “We are like the moon, we illuminate without scorching.”

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