Simple Living In The Old Days?
Not long ago, we included a post about how the older generations lived. We often talk about going back to simpler times. Each person has his or her own reasons for thinking we should – to save the environment, save money, have a more peaceful life or a better family life and so on. I want to add a new twist on this subject and give you something new to think about.
I hear so many people say, “I wish things were like they were in my grandparents day” because they equate the old days with simple living. There was a time when I longed to live in another time, too, but as years passed I have learned to enjoy living in the time I am in.
There are many things that I would enjoy about living in the old days but I have found that I am so blessed to live in the time I live in. If I want, I can choose to live simply and do many of the things people did back then but in addition to that I have the advantages of the modern age. I have the best of both worlds.
I think we are foolish if we don’t use the wonderful things our predecessors worked so hard to discover and invent for us. They wanted a better world for future generations and worked hard to give it to us, but many of us seem to want to take the wonderful things they left us to make our lives better and easier and cast them aside. I wonder if they wouldn’t be a little disappointed with us.
Here are some reasons I am so glad I live now, along with a look at some differences between living now and then:
- Not having modern inventions would mean many of my children and grandchildren would have died from lack of good medical care. Hospitals, ambulances and other transportation to get them to a doctor and all the medications and vaccinations available now are a blessing. My two sweet granddaughters wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these things. (one was born 11 weeks early and the other had a hole in her lung at birth and both had to be in NICU)
- I am grateful for canned goods and preserved food that I can buy now instead of having to depend exclusively on fresh fruits and vegetables, which were only available for a few months of the year.
- I am grateful for a grocery store where I can go and replace my food easily if it is all destroyed.
- I’m glad to know that when I am too ill or when I’m unexpectedly not home to cook something for my family, there are places like fast food places where they can go and easily get food once in awhile when they need to.
- I am so glad for pesticides so I don’t have to stand and watch in horror as our entire year’s food supply and income are slowly destroyed by pests and insects. I’m also glad that I don’t have to sit by and not be able to do anything as I watch my child die from a disease, which I was unable to protect her from, that was spread by insects. I’m thankful that the living nightmare of living with things like bed bugs, roaches, mice and flies is virtually nonexistent compared to what it was before pesticides.
- I am grateful for an electric stove, a microwave and a washing machine so I don’t have to worry about myself or my children being badly burned from fire or hot boiling water used to wash my clothes or an arm being mangled and crushed in a wringer washer.
- I am glad I have a washing machine, a dishwasher, a vacuum and so many other wonderful things to make my life easier so I don’t look and feel like an old woman before my time with a worn out body.
- I am thankful for phones, webcams, cars and planes, all of which help me keep in close touch with the family I love, so I don’t have to go years or possibly the rest of my life without seeing them.
My list could go on and on. The point I want to make is that our grandmothers and great grandmothers were wise women who embraced the new “technology” that came their way, appreciating new and different things that might improve their lives.
They knew how back breaking it could be to be 8 months pregnant with toddlers under foot and still having to get the whole garden harvested and preserved or their families would have no food at all for the winter. They looked at canned goods, even with preservatives, as heaven sent and most of them have lived much longer, healthier lives because of them than they did with their own canned foods.
Even with lives that seem simpler to us, there was a lot more stress and pressure for them, which most of us really don’t understand. Even for those of us who are trying to “live off of the land” or just live simply, there is always that knowledge in the back of our minds that if something goes catastrophically wrong with our “crop”, we can still go to the store and buy what we need.
We have a choice. They didn’t. It puts a whole different spin on the situation when there is less pressure. They had no choice but to do the things they did because it meant life or death. When we choose to can our own vegetables or grow our own gardens, we don’t usually do it because we have no other option but just because we want to live simply.
It is much like the difference between when you work a job because you have to do it to feed your family or when you have plenty of money but you work just because you want to and get pleasure out of it. There is a whole different level of stress.
We laud our grandmothers’ ways of doing things like hanging clothes on the line, but my grandmother in law who in days past had to haul water 10 miles from the creek and then wash her clothes by hand and hang them on the line loved to use her dryer years later. She embraced it.
Now that being said. That doesn’t mean I believe you shouldn’t hang clothes on the line, hand wash your dishes, garden, can or other things. I still do all of that. I love living more simply. I also hate many of the things like the electronic toys our children are obsessing about and other crazy things about the world.
We are so quick to march against and fight things like pesticides, hospital births, preservatives and so many other things, pointing out the awful things they are doing in our lives but we tend to forget (or maybe we haven’t been taught) that these things have saved and helped thousands, even millions of lives. Without pesticides, disease would be rampant. (Go to any third world country and you can see this today.) Many mothers and children died in childbirth but now a child can be born many weeks too early and be saved and many moms who would have died then are saved with Caesarean section all the time. We have plenty of food because our crops are not being destroyed and are preserved properly.
My point is, there is nothing wrong with using all of the wonderful things God has given us as long as we use them wisely, carefully and gratefully. Simple living is great but it’s best not to always look at the past with rose colored glasses. They had many good things but they also had many stresses we couldn’t imagine dealing with now. The grass isn’t always green on the other side. They had to fight weeds, too.
Photo By: Patrick Emerson