Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Compass Points 4.19.2006

By Al Campbell

The greatest gift we, as a society, could give to the next generation is a love of simplicity and the joy it brings.
 Elusive as the morning fog, priceless as the Crown Jewels, enjoyment of simple things ought to be the aim of each of us to impart to our offspring.
 As the four youngsters from Stone Harbor School addressed borough council on the need for a new recreation building, I wanted to take a poll.
 How many in that austere chamber would freely give up those condominiums at 96th Street and First Avenue for the bowling alley that used to be? It was, after all, the unofficial recreation center for children of a different generation.
 Ask some gray heads, they’d say the same thing. It’s the price of progress, and who pays the bill? Today’s young people are dissatisfied, and so they seek a recreation center.
 Before the great dollar chase became a way of life, it was possible for young people to have a small motor or sail boat tied to a friend’s dock.
 Weekends and other off hours were often spent on the water, in some pursuit like fishing or hunting. That was, of course, before all sorts of laws regulated boats, fishing by state regulations, and hunting fell off as the animal rights lobby grew.
 Before cars were impossible TO tinker with, some young men (maybe a young lady or two) spent hours with their cars trying to spruce up those creampuffs.
 There were some kids, too, who simply loved the ocean, either to surf or just be beach bums. Even with a beach tags, that wouldn’t break anybody.
 Still, familiarity breeds contempt, and the call of the sea to the local young isn’t what it might be to someone in Bergenfield.
 It’s not only Stone Harbor youngsters who are feeling the angst of increased costs of recreation.
 Take the whole prom circle.
 Recently, reporter Christine Cote wrote of a Lower Township woman who has embarked on a campaign to collect prom dresses for young ladies who cannot afford them. They might otherwise be cheated out of one of  society’s greatest evenings, “The Prom.”
 Yes, prices of everything are out of whack, but isn’t it time someone reined in the obscene costs for high school students to attend a prom?
 Would it be so terrible to knock some of the glitz out of that glorified dance, and hold it on school property? Such unthinkable recreation formerly took place in such mundane places as school gymnasiums. Somehow we survived.
 Then, it became “uncool” or unfashionable to wear a tux and gown in a place where you sweated and played basketball and bombardment. Welcome the upscale prom.
 Soon, we urged youth to become what they were not: young kings and queens for an evening. Nothing should stand in the way, we said, and it doesn’t, for many. Many couples of old got married for less than what some shell out for a prom evening.
 Those who can’t afford the bill for duds and limo are scorned for their poverty. An unbearable burden for the young, but no one ever said life was fair.
 So what have we taught the next generation? Only that money brings happiness. Chase after what you don’t have and, when you get it, you’ll be king or queen of the hill, for an evening.
 If only we could tell our youth to learn enjoyment from simple things. What happened to hobbies like model building and science experiments at home, or woodworking in the shed? What happened to taking care of the yard or sweeping leaves or mowing lawns? (Oops, I forget kids can’t operate power machinery, they’re liable to get hurt. Glad I never knew that.)
 Raking and weeding never killed anyone; neither did lifting a hand to paint a garage or wash a car or clean the house. Boring, yes, but it keeps hands and minds occupied.
 If only we could show our youth the joy of simplicity, and lead by example, they wouldn’t feel overpowered by their spare time. Every waking hour would be filled with something to do, maybe not expensive, but time consuming.

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