the greatest generationIs there anything better than summer vacation?

No hard bedtime for the kids and great movies at the theater and, best of all, tons of family time. This past week, my family along with my in-laws spent the week at a great condo on South Padre Island. We would get up in the mornings and slide open the back porch door and sit and listen to the waves crashing against the shore. We went for lazy walks on the beach and collected seashells that my youngest daughter handed out to her friends as souvenirs. We went out at night with our flashlights and hunted sand-crabs. We rode the waves on boogie-boards and swam and fought the tides until we were exhausted. When we came back to the condo in the evenings, we would play cards while the kids fed the birds and read and eventually just crashed. I remember waking early one morning while everyone was still asleep and sitting on the back porch and thinking that, at that moment, there was no one more blessed than me.

I have been married to my wonderful wife for nearly 25 years. In fact, we are 6 weeks away from that incredible milestone. My time with Sylvia has been one of my great life blessings. Not only is she a wonderful person but she is the best mother I have ever seen. I have never known anyone more dedicated to her children and more committed to making sure her kids are grounded and loved and have a strong love for the Lord. All of these traits endear her to me, and as an incredible bonus, her parents are two of the people I love most in this world.

George and Wynell Bell are 81 and 78 respectively.

Now you may think that at that age they might be a drag on a trip to the beach, especially considering Wynell is only about 8 weeks removed from double knee replacement. George (better known as Papa) and Wynell (better known as Memie) not only are not a drag, but they are the life of the trip. I can’t keep up with Papa, and Memie, replaced knees and all, doesn’t stop smiling and serving until her grandkids are fast asleep and she can lay her head on her pillow knowing they had and the great day.

Sylvia and I decided many years ago that when we vacationed we would include Papa and Memie, because we want our kids to have as many memories as possible with these two incredible people. We want our kids to hear the stories, see the commitment to family, understand the work ethic and desire to improve that these two people have had their entire lives. More importantly, we want our kids to see how two people can be committed to each other and their Lord for all of these years... and still walk on a beach holding hands. There is just too much wisdom and example and fun and family-first to not have them with us.

the greatest generationSome of you may be reading this and thinking, “Well they sound like nice people, but why do I need to read about them?” George and Wynell are part of a generation that we need to keep fresh in the hearts and minds of our kids. They are part of a generation who knew struggle and knew sacrifice and was committed to giving of themselves in order to make their family and their community better. This generation volunteered when wars broke out. This generation worked in the fields to produce a living and built the industrial foundation that has led to the age of convenience and technology that we have today. Most of all, this generation worked. They got their hands dirty. They considered work as an opportunity, not a bad word.

I want my son to hear stories about how George rode a horse into town to get supplies for his mom. I want him to hear how George slept on the front porch because the nighttime wind was cooler than the house they lived in pre-air conditioning. I want my son to hear about how George spent a chunk of his early adulthood in Korea because that was what his country called upon him to do. I want my son to know and understand what incredible value George, and people of his generation, brought to us today. I want my son to understand that when we go to his Papa’s house and his Papa has the motor pulled out of the car, or he is up on the roof repairing it, or he is building an addition to their home that it’s not just an incredible feat for an 81 year old, but instead he is doing it because it needs done. I want my son to understand the generations that made this country great, because when things needed done they did it.

I want my daughters to hear how their Memie worked at an early age in order to contribute to her family. I want them to hear how she overcame some very difficult family issues and decided that her family would be better. I want my daughters to hear how their Memie gave up so much in order to support her husband while he sacrificed for his country. I want them to hear how she worked for many years because that was what her family needed. I want them to see a 78 year old, weeks removed from a double knee surgery, be the first one up from the table offering to serve others.

I am sharing all of this with you because we are nearing a point where the people who plowed fields with a horse and walked from school to the cotton fields and served their country while their country was still being defined and lived under the dogged determination of family first are quickly fading away. We are nearing a point of losing those generations who knew that survival meant work and work was an opportunity. We are quickly losing our greatest of generations, and when they are gone so will be the foundation that made this country the most prosperous in the history of the world. And we desperately need to hear their stories and understand their lives and emulate their commitment and strive to be as centered on service and work and family and God as they were.

Last week, my kids built sand castles and saw the beauty of a beach sunset and witnessed the glory of an ocean dawn. More importantly, they spent 6 days with their Memie and Papa and built memories and learned lessons and heard stories and played games with the people who have made today what it is. Look around you. Who are these people in your life? Cherish them, because when they are gone so too will be the generations that worried more about us, their kids and grandkids, than they did for themselves. Every day I thank God for George and Wynell Bell, and every day I selfishly pray that they live long enough to forge indelible and unforgettable memories of who they are in the minds of my children. Because one day, I want my kids to tell their kids about two amazing people who worked harder and yet smiled more than anyone else they ever knew. Let’s cherish and lift up and learn from our greatest generation, and just maybe we can recapture the values that made this country the greatest the word has ever known.

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