Editorial: Learning From Our Elders

We were saddened to learn of Norma Bartol’s recent passing. At 93 when she died, she was a town icon, and longtime reporter and columnist for the Greenwich Time. Her column, Backcountry Greenwich, was a treasure trove of information on what was happening on the northwest corner of town. Her love of our town was evident for all to see.

Norma, a lifelong resident, was passionate about horseback riding and was a tireless supporter of the Greenwich Riding & Trails Association. She was a student of town history and often included interesting tidbits in her columns. She was one of a kind and she will be missed.

Her passing brought to mind a topic we have written about before, learning from our elders. Too often we mark their passing and wish we had spoken with them one more. We should make that effort. They have much to offer.

Someone who was born 93 years ago was born in 1929, the first year of the Great Depression, of which there was nothing great. Think about the history they have witnessed firsthand; World War II, the Cold War, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles, gas rationing, the collapse of the Soviet Union. Those are just a few of the major events. What about all of the personal successes that make up a full life? In Norma’s case, she began working as a reporter for the Greenwich Time in the 1940’s. We suspect that she would have had amazing wisdom to impart.

Too often we move too quickly and do not spend enough time with our older generations. We are too busy with our jobs, raising kids, and a myriad other activities. We may assume our parents, or maybe even our grandparents want to simply enjoy their retirement, see the grandkids now and then, and play golf. After all isn’t that why they moved to Florida?

Aristotle said: “Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.” This is correct, but it does not stop with the end of formal education. We continually learn throughout our entire lives. It may be for work or how to be a better parent or how to lower our golf handicap. We are constantly learning.

So why do we often stop learning from the generation or two that have come before us? After all, they paved the way. Back in the late 1990’s a good friend and I would regularly visit with former State Senator Mike Morano. It was towards the end of his life, but oh what a life he had. Born in 1915 he would tell us firsthand accounts of many of the historical events listed above and from his nearly 30 years serving in the state legislature. It was great! Mike enjoyed the company and the opportunity to tell his stories again, but we learned from Mike.

The older generations built Greenwich into what it is today. They were leaders and active in preserving Greenwich’s sense of community. We must learn from them while we still can. Not so that we can ensure Greenwich does not change, but so we can ensure the change that is inevitable is done well and reflects what we as a community want.

The lessons we can learn from talking with our elders and listening to their stories are lessons of leadership, compromise, resiliency, entrepreneurship, compassion, and so much more. We can learn what they did to lift our community up so that we can continue to hold it up. If we are too busy to spend that time learning, then we may be too busy to take it upon ourselves to hoist this mantle for the betterment of our town.

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