5 Things to Do Every. Single. Day.

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In the grand scheme of things, I suppose I’m really not that old yet, but I have to admit, sometimes I look at the world around me and I feel old.  What happened to the “good old days,” that time before every moment of our life was consumed by the need to do something or go somewhere, before e-mail and texting and Facebook took the place of actual conversations, before a culture of overspending and celebrity worship and instant gratification?  I don’t actually know if it has existed in my lifetime, but I long for a time when life was slower, safer, and just a little simpler, when a person’s word meant something, and when everyone knew that hard work was the key to success.


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A few weeks ago I wrote a little about our experience of taking care of my mother-in-law during the last few years of her life.  Although not without its challenges, I am so, so thankful I was fortunate enough to be able to spend that time with her, and to soak in just a small piece of her wisdom.  She was part of what we now call the Greatest Generation, born in Chicago in 1924.  Her childhood was shaped by the Depression and she worked as a nurse’s aid during World War II.  She was a lifelong Democrat, eternally loyal to FDR for bringing them through that period of history, and forever marked by the experience.

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Her generation taught us much about life, both the big picture and the day-to-day challenges.  It is impossible to capture the depth of an Entire generation in one little blog post, but I do believe that a few of that generation’s best qualities can be summed up as a lesson in five critically important things to do Every. Single. Day:

Work Hard

I worked as a manager for many years, and it never ceased to amaze me how many of my employees felt they should be rewarded every step of the way, regardless of the job they did while they were there.  They’d literally think they deserved a raise after a week of simply showing up.  There was no commitment, no drive, no pride in what they did; instead, their sense of entitlement far outweighed their effort.

Somewhere along the line, as technology took over and life became more convenient, I think our society lost the understanding that work is supposed to be be hard.  That’s why it is called work.  The Greatest Generation wasn’t afraid of hard work; on the contrary, they welcomed it, knowing that putting in 100% every single day is the only way to get ahead, and that the best things in life are the ones we work the hardest for.

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Step Up

The Greatest Generation was not afraid to step up and take personal responsibility.  They didn’t expect someone else to solve their problems; instead, they each realized that they were a critical part of the solution.  In fact, they embraced the opportunity to be the solution rather than the problem.  Moreover, they were willing to accept the consequences of their actions, whatever they may be.

Don’t Waste

Those who were raised in the Depression seem to have an innate sense of frugality and thriftiness that has been completely lost in our consumer-driven, practically disposable society.  That generation knew better than to waste its resources, instead sticking to the mantra of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”  They were grateful for what they had, and understood that “stuff” was not the answer, nor the key to a good life.

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Love Well

Back in the day, commitment and loyalty mattered.  Marriage was for life.  There was no underlying idea that if it got too hard you could just quit.  The words “for better or for worse” actually meant something.  Moreover, people actually trusted each other and a person’s word was usually enough.  It was a time where the Golden Rule–Love your neighbor as you love yourself–was actually practiced on a daily basis.

Think Bigger

And although hard work, personal responsibility, frugality, and commitment are important qualities, I think the single most defining characteristic of our Greatest Generation–and the daily rule I most want to emulate–is the sense of purpose, they had.  The folks from that era believed whole heartedly in something bigger than themselves, in faith and freedom and opportunity.  They were willing to fight for it.  They were willing to die for it.  Rather than ask, “what’s in it for me,” they looked around them to see what they could do for the cause.  They knew their efforts mattered, and they were willing to embrace hardship for the sake of a greater cause.

How would our lives change if we were to follow these five rules every single day?

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  1. Jen Green
    June 7 at 08:48AM

    I used to spend every Saturday with my grandparents and they always talked about the Depression and the war with such reverence. It completely shaped who they were, and I think I am a better person because of the time I spent with them. Everything you wrote reminded me of them. Thank you for the reminder.

  2. June 7 at 08:52AM

    I love this post and photos. I agree it was a different mindset by most folks back then with the greatest generation. I like to try to model myself after my beloved grandmother – a soft yet incredibly strong woman who embodied the characteristics you mention above. Each of us is responsible for our direction in life so this is a great reminder. Thanks for sharing!

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

  3. Amanda
    June 7 at 10:39AM

    Thank you for this post! I agree with the title “greatest generation”. Perhaps it’s why I have so much respect and admiration for my grandmother. It’s so easy to forget the things in life that really are important. I need to print this out and hang it on my fridge as a daily reminder.

  4. Lisa
    June 7 at 11:26AM

    I love this post. And agree with it 100%! If we had more people remembering what our grandparents knew and followed I think we’d all be a bit better off. We do get too caught up in the material, the intangible, and “keeping up with the Jones’ ” that we forget to be grateful for what we have. And that a good life doesn’t necessarily include “things”. I too enjoyed the time I spent with my grandparents (and those of their generation–still have my paternal great-aunt though, sadly, she’s fading away) and the do my best to keep in mind and live by the lessons I’ve learned from them. Thank you for the reminders.

  5. June 7 at 11:33AM

    100% agree. Life is a busy rush. I wish I was a kid again…

  6. Alyse
    June 7 at 01:07PM

    I totally agree with this post. We are making our own lives more difficult by not being responsible for ourselves, therefore not teaching our children to do so. Every single time we say “oh that is so and so’s fault” it comes back around to bite us (at least every time I have seen it happen, which was multiple times a day at my old job). When we become accountable for our own actions, things also become safer. I hate that I can’t just let my kids go outside to play. That I feel like I must be that helicopter parent. But to me, the risks of my child going missing far outweigh anything anyone could ever tell me about my parenting style. Oh how badly I wish my kids could be raised at the time I was. When I could just go outside and play until it was dark and not have to worry about anything but just being a kid.

  7. Stacy Clark
    June 7 at 03:11PM

    I was always close to my Grandmother, but over the past decade, my children and I would spend every Saturday with her and my Grandfather. I learned how to not only be frugal but also how to make things look nice, too. My grandparents encouraged my faith but more importantly modeled it for me. They recently passed away only 6 weeks apart from each other, but I have wonderful memories and lessons from them that I will always cherish.

  8. Nancy Carr
    June 8 at 01:10PM

    Thank you for sharing. My mother was also born in 1924 in Missouri and your post reminds me so much of the lives of my parents. Yes, what happened to the good old days? I miss them.

  9. Kristi
    June 8 at 03:17PM

    Great post, Ruth! The world would be much better if we all embraced the thinking and values of our elders! I see so many young people with an entitlement attitudes and the inability to accept responsibility. Such a shame…

  10. Janette
    June 8 at 11:28PM

    What will our days be called? “The Good Old Days” are gone. SAD

  11. June 9 at 09:51AM

    Thanks for this post. It touched my heart. Both of my parents were part of the greatest generation. They lived with a wonderful work ethic and instilled it in me. I see some of the younger generation does have this, although it may play out a little differently. My adult children work hard, but will question things they see as pointless, and they try to focus on the work that brings them fulfillment. Your photos are wonderful, and make me want to go through my parent’s old photos, scan and work with them to digitalize.

  12. Natalie
    June 10 at 11:54PM

    Amazing. And so true. It’s good to see this perspective, and try to live by it. Although I think it’s harder to do. It seems like they kept each other in check.

    • Ruth Soukup
      June 12 at 07:20AM

      That is so true Natalie!

  13. August 5 at 12:59AM

    Just found your blog post and blog via Pinterest. Someone pinned this article. Very well said!
    I particularly liked “Step up” become part of the solution not part of the problem. Sadly , we live in a ‘help me fix my problem’ society.
    Growing up my mom used to say “poor planning on your part does not make this an emergency on my part” …Stepping up, would certainly eliminate what most people would deem an emergency today.
    Good article,

  14. Anonymous
    August 18 at 11:19PM

    Ummm, FDR started the mess we have now………

  15. Kimberly Guerrero
    September 14 at 11:43AM

    I totally agree! You got to the heart and wrote it well. I was blessed to have 2 sets of grandparents from THAT generation. They were a strong influence in my growing up. They were around, they were envolved they wanted to teach me life lessons learned. I carry a lot of what they taught me in who I am as a person now. I look around and see that the values I was soaked in are in very few people. Hard to see who takes responsiblity for their actions, not clear on who really works hard, its blurred who values marriage, loving with all your heart and honoring the person you choose to be with for life. Or the very clear line of newer is better, your out of date if you don’t buy the latest, or going to fall behind if you don’t keep up. Why on earth would you want to keep that large ziplock bag that you had chips in to reuse agian when there are 20 more in the box? Because the bag IS reuseable, not broken or damaged and a simple rinse and dry ready for the lettuce you just bought at the store. More often than not I hear I can’t, that’s too hard or I don’t know how you do it? The answer is you can do anything, just do it! People are easily distracted from the things that are MOST important. Thank you for writing about these values and the people who lived them. They ARE things people should be living and teaching their children daily.

  16. September 15 at 09:19AM

    Thank you for posting this. It’s such a great reminder of the core things that really matter. My parents and grandparents all live/lived by these rules and the legacy they left is extraordinary. Admitily, I’m not as good at following the rules, but I’m trying 🙂

  17. Samantha
    November 17 at 02:55PM

    Love this post and absolutely adore the Greatest Generation!

  18. March 27 at 10:28PM

    This was such a sweet but very true post. I love the part about actually working hard. I have so many people in my life that don’t do ANYTHING because it’s hard…it’s hard to take your kids to the store, it’s hard to go to church…the greatest generation probably thinks we are nuts….haha…I LOVE that generation and cherish them so much for their wisdom and experience. So wise!

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  20. November 5 at 10:44AM

    I LOVED this post Ruth! My husband and I have had the opportunity to live in England the past year and visited many WWII sites in France and Belgium this past summer. It was absolutely incredible to visit these places. The spirit of this generation still lives on in these villages that “Greatest Generation” helped liberate. Thank you for the inspiration and encouragement! 🙂

  21. November 16 at 07:26PM

    This is a really good post. I’m gonna share these 5 things with my 8 year old daughter. The pictures are so beautiful and give a really nice touch. Thank you for sharing.

  22. June 7 at 01:03PM

    Great post! When I listen to my aunt talk about what it was like growing up in Missouri during the depression, I often wonder as hard as life was back then was it not better than ours. She says, “we were all poor. However, no one gave it much though because we were all the same.” The older I get, the more I long for a simpler time…without all the electronic stuff and good ole’ visits with the neighbors while the kids are outside playing!

  23. B
    September 23 at 08:15PM

    Wonderful article! I really loved the photographs. The generations before us had such class. I sometimes wish I was born in another era, with the suits and dresses, Sunday drives, sitting on the front porch, and there was nothing wrong with being a homemaker! Whatever happened to the simple life?

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