Okay, I never thought of myself as "old." But looking back on my life, it seems I've seen a few things.
I was born in 1962 in the Middle of Everything: The middle child of five kids, in a small industrial town in the middle of the country, just off the southern tip of the middle Great Lake (okay, maybe not the dead center lake, but not on either of the ends, anyway).
My earliest television memory was the man on the screen saying that President was dead. For some reason, I thought they were talking about Lincoln. What does an eighteen-month-old know, after all? My second memory from TV was watching police dogs and fire hoses being used on Americans for the sole reason of their skin color. I grew up watching war come into my living room as teenage boys huddled behind earthen berms in rice paddies far away, occasionally rising to fire blind bursts of automatic fire at invisible enemies.
And I saw my country turn its back on its heroes. Soldiers returned home from jungles and paddies to a nation of people who spat on them for doing the job they were sent to do. Journalism transformed from the reporting of facts and the chronicling of the events of our time, to agenda-driven, passive-aggressive, scandal-rag grandstanding for the purpose of pouring gasoline on whatever fires the media could find to further an editor's views and garner ratings.
I've seen changes in me as well. I transformed at one point in my childhood from an outgoing, confident little boy to a painfully shy introvert. I went from candid and open to silent and withdrawn, and that picture dictated my life for years, internalizing until it exploded in my teen years to make me an angry, depressed and destructive young man. After my term in the Air Force, I bottomed out. You know you've bottomed out when you grieve for road kill. I was ten minutes away from my appointment with a bridge when God intervened, in a way that told me in no uncertain terms that 1.) He exists and 2.) He actually cared enough for me to call me by my name when he spoke to me. That has a way of getting a person's attention.
My family went through a mountain of change too. When I was little, I saw my world through the rose-colored lens of innocent childhood. That got shattered when my mother left, and Dad had to raise all five of us kids, plus a granddaughter, all on his own, in a house on the East Side of La Porte, Indiana. I was ten when the divorce became final, and thirteen when we moved from the nice, sheltered neighborhood on the north side to literally the other side of the tracks. When I was sixteen, Dad was diagnosed with cancer. Nine years later he died, and the lynch pin of my family disappeared. We were never quite the same since, never as close-knit as we once were.
I guess the point of this post is that we all see things, behold history, share experiences that change us fundamentally. No one can honestly say they are the same person they were when they were three, and I suppose that's a good thing. Hardships make us more independent. They also shape us into people who can be there for others going through their own mill. I don't have to have a police dog grafted onto my leg to know it hurts. I don't need a fire hose turned on me to know it's wrong. I can reach out to people who have, because I have seen their struggles and rejoice in the progress made, all the while thumbing my nose at the race-baiters who derive their power by making others believe that Martin Luther King's dream is no where nearer its fulfillment that it was in 1968.
I guess it's a matter of perspective, from an older pair of eyes.