On July 20, 1969, I was 9 years old. My great-grandmother was 89 years old. And Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon. At this point in her life, my great-grandmother had finally given up her own place and spent her days in a room at her son's home, usually listening to baseball on the radio. She never had much use for television. But on this day, everyone was urging her to leave her room to watch the historic event. But she flat refused. Eventually insisting that it had not, in fact, happened. All of which led her family to speculate that Grandma had finally slipped into senility. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
She explained that in her life so much had happened. Born in 1880, she'd seen indoor plumbing and electricity introduced. Her little Ozark town had seen the train come through, followed by cars and then airplanes. Her world had stretched from a girlhood in Des Arc to adulthood in St. Louis. By 1969, she'd buried her husband and three of her five children. Radio, television, satellites and now this! A man walking on the moon was just too much. She'd had enough!
In the end, she lived 94 years, out living everyone who had shared her memories of all these changes. I've always admired the wisdom she showed in knowing when enough was enough. And as I've gotten older, I've wondered when I might reach the point of recognizing when enough is enough.
As a child of the space age, I am thrilled at Curiosity's successful landing on Mars without for a second thinking it going too far. However, I must admit, I'm not enamored of each and every technological doodad that comes down the pike. Not so much because I distain innovation, but rather for their dehumanizing side effects, the way they seem to put up barriers between people while purporting to expand connections. Two years ago, on Valentine's Day, my love and I were out for a romantic dinner at a very nice little restaurant. A casual glance around the room revealed that the couples at every table except three had their eyes glued to the screens of their smart phones, rather than on the face of the person they were with, which perplexed me. It still does. Certainly, it was no more than an extreme example of what one sees every day, but the phenomenon is not a good thing in my opinion, and one place where I choose to say enough in my own life.
I wonder what new events will lead me to consider the limits of enough in my life. I don't think it is any sort of one-size fits all absolute. Perhaps many people never reach a point of enough in their lives. And I wonder if that is either a good or bad thing, or perhaps neither. Maybe the wisdom lies in recognizing if you have reached the point of enough.
Teacher Voices: Kate Bartlett - This is a continuation of my series of interviews with former students who are now teachers. The interview on this page features Kate Bartlett, a teacher ...
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