The only constant is change

The story is told of a family that carpeted its bathroom. They liked it so much they went ahead and ran the carpet all the way into the house.

The humor of this story (if you found any in it) underscores the drastic changes we’ve seen in society in the past few decades. When I was a child the little two-holer out behind the house was not only a common sight in rural Iowa (and many other states,) it was the only toilet for the family that lived there. Most Americans today never had the “pleasure” of using such a facility.

A number of years ago I participated in a seminar which included a session on attitudes toward change. The session opened with an exercise in which we were asked to tell the moderator the things we remembered as peculiar to the 1950s. When that list was complete we did the same for the ’60s, then the ’70s and finally the ’80s. (Heaven knows the changes we’ve seen since then.) The moderator then reviewed with us the many changes each of us had witnessed in those decades ? from Ford Edsels to space shuttles.

Change occurs, she told us, whether we want it to or not. Some of changes we deeply feared weren’t all that bad; some have actually been good changes.

Who of us would have imagined in the ’50s, for instance, that someday we would be cooking with microwaves rather than heat generated by gas or electricity? By the 1980s cooks who learned to cook on a wood (or corn cob) heated cook stove were preparing meals in a microwave oven.

Those of us who used to enjoy chatting on a rural party line now speak to someone on the other side of the planet on a tiny wireless cellphone from our car! When she was a college student, our daughter spent a summer studying in France. As we drove home from O’Hare Airport she called us on our cellphone from Paris.

A question for those of you who are my age or older: when you got your first television set in the 1950s and watched the snowy signals did you imagine tuning in crystal-clear pictures on digital receivers?

How many parents were upset when Junior decided to let his crew cut grow into shoulder-length locks in the ’60s and ’70s? Many of them learned two things ? (a) Junior was just as nice a boy with long hair as he was with a crew cut; and (b) Junior had those locks cut a few years later and probably shaves his head today.

After witnessing the absurdity of the hair-length feud of the late ’60s and early ’70s, it was amusing to hear parents complain about their sons’ ultra-short “buzz” haircuts that followed a couple of decades later.

Change will continue. There’s very little we can do to prevent it.

Yet resistance to change remains one of the major stumbling blocks to progress in our nation, our state and our community. “We’ve never done it that way before” has become a curse for our communities, our schools, our churches and our families.

(Full disclosure: I wrestle with change myself and have to work at keeping an open mind.)

Certainly not all change is good and we must remain solidly opposed to changes that truly have negatives effects on society. But let’s be sure that we thoroughly understand the nature and effects of change before we take a rock-solid opposition to it.

The “we’ve never done it that way” complex keeps our communities from growing and competing. All too frequently we hear statements like, “It was good enough for me and my kids; why do we need anything new?” Or, “If we do this we might attract people who are different than we are.” Or, “I’m not going to spend a dime that won’t benefit me directly.”

There is no standing still in society today. We are either moving forward or falling backward. And whether we progress or decline is based to a great extent on how we handle the changes that are inevitable.

We can’t stop change so we’d better work with it to be sure that it is good change.

End of sermon.