I've learned a few things in my 85 years - this October, perhaps not as many as I might have, but a few.
I'm a bit ashamed at how long it has taken me to learn some things. One, is that most people are pretty smart. Just because someone does not excel in the classroom, doesn't mean he/she doesn't have that understanding that defines them as a human being, with all the necessities to contribute to a grand and fulfilling chapter of the history of human endeavor. When I was younger, I often put people into categories that were based more on my own fears or inadequacies, than on what may have been their actual qualities. People, by and large, are all quite intelligent, and approachable, and the more of them you have contact with, the better your life can be.
In my younger days I was shy. I never really opened up to humanity at large, I suppose for fear of not being accepted. That may seem a strange feeling for a young human among his like, but it is very common. It is perhaps encouraged by others who are very aggressive in the defense of their own fears.
Every drop of water in the ocean has its place. Don't be afraid to claim your own. Live your life as you feel it, and don't worry about whether or not you have been the shining star in the annals of Hollywood, or just another schmuck. It must be obvious that being a matinee idol does not produce any lasting satisfaction to the soul. We've certainly seen so many of them crash on the reefs of reality. You might be surprised at what glories can be had at being just another face in the crowd. So I implore those of you who may fit the criteria of being a shrinking violet, learn to not be afraid of standing up, and being who you are.
I remember an enlightenment of mine. I was attending a high school class reunion. I don't recall which one this was. There have been many.
I remember sitting at a table with a lady who I recall from our high school days as an extremely shy young girl. She had an almost insurmountable retreating attitude to the thought of being approachable. Shyness ruled the day. Now, at her table, I met her for the first time as an intelligent, self-contained, self-confident lady, married to a fine gentleman, and fulfilling her life in a most elegant way. My goodness I thought, what marvelous creatures are hidden away in the growing days of development. Sometimes it's amazing what comes out from the cocoon.
I guess the moral of the story is not to be too quick to pigeonhole people, especially in their early years. It can be difficult to see what kind of tree may sprout from that seemingly worthless acorn. Realize that humanity has many faces, and devices, but all springing from that intelligence that rules existence; and they all work to produce the ultimate culmination of the future of humanity, and life. Believe in the destiny of mankind.
At any time in history we've always thought we finally knew it all, and have always been proven wrong as we continue to break new barriers. If history would teach us anything, it ought to be that if the world still exists 200 years from now, they will look back on us the way we see our forefathers of 200 years ago, putting up with a lot of crude inconveniences, and limited insights that would be so unnecessary if only we knew better. Each generation is another rung on the ladder of mankind's destiny.
The true promise of mankind depends on the freedom of people. For centuries rulers have kept their populace like cattle in the master's barn, whose milk they lived on. The United States has set a new standard for liberty, with a people who have been gifted to be their own masters. How privileged we are to be a part of this country. May God bless America.
Richard Westlund is a Collins resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org