Before D-Day and the Pacific island hopping campaign, the Greatest Generation learned the hard way how to get through the toughest of times. Many who served in World War II, as well as those who waited on the home front, had already survived the Great Depression, a time of massive unemployment and food insecurity beginning in 1929 and lasting right up to the start of the war.
Channel the Greatest Generation to Grit Through the Pandemic
As we face our own great test, the coronavirus pandemic, we should be modeling ourselves after the gritty men and women who made the best of what they had.
Facing an Uncertain Future
The Greatest Generation lived their formative years and early adulthood under the strain of economic depression. Families scraped by on what little they had and work was often scarce.
Jobs were uncertain. Food supply was uncertain. Life was a roller coaster.
Then, the world was plunged into a violent war across two oceans and continents. Even survival wasn’t guaranteed for the troops; loved ones lived with the knowledge that loss was likely imminent.
And yet, they survived. Many thrived. They lived to, literally, fight another day.
They did it by living in gratitude for what they had. This generation enjoyed simple pleasures and treasured their families.
Communities pulled together to get by during those challenging times.
Here’s how we can use the lessons of the Greatest Generation today:
- love your family well
- enjoy what you have today
- be grateful for what you have
- share what you can, when you can
- tell your loved ones how you feel
- save what you can for the future
Missing Loved Ones
During the Depression, many husbands and fathers needed to move away from their families just to find work. Then all able bodied men and many women joined the fight in World War II.
Missing someone they loved was a fact of life.
Here’s how the Greatest Generation made it through:
- writing letters
- sending pictures
- keeping diaries
- phoning when able
- making the most of the days they were together
Use those tips with a modern twist:
- send emails instead of, or in addition to, writing letters or postcards
- start a shared photo album or add new photos to a digital photo frame
- use a shared Google Doc to write down your experiences daily
- connect via video chat
- play games virtually via video chat
- watch a move together, separately with Netflix Party
- make plans for fun with friends and family post-pandemic
Essential Food Shortages
Before the current pandemic even started to really hit the US, stores saw their entire stock of toilet paper get wiped out. Now, we’re seeing shortages of food essentials like flour, milk, bread and eggs.
This wouldn’t have been unfamiliar to the WW2 generation. They lived through the Depression, when many food items were simply too expensive to buy frequently. And then the War brought food rationing to help keep the troops well fed.
They learned how to cook with smart swaps, like using applesauce for eggs or oil. We can use some of these recipes today!
What they couldn’t buy, they often learned to grow themselves! Almost every family had a victory garden in their yard, on their patio or as part of a larger community garden. You can still see victory gardens in Boston.
You can use these tips from the Greatest Generation to handle food shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- grow your favorite veggies at home in containers or raised beds
- plant herbs in tin cans and place in a sunny window
- join a CSA or farm co-op in your area to support local farmers and grab fresh produce
- use pantry staples to cook filling meals
- bake your own bread, if possible
- learn how to can or pickle
Limited Travel Options
During World War II, gas was rationed, as were rubber tires. Both materials were desperately needed to supply the troops overseas.
This caused travel to be very limited. No long road trips!
Today, we are all mostly limited to socially distant outings in our immediate area. We can’t cross state lines for fun or adventure anymore.
In addition, flying for any non-essential reason is frowned upon. Cruises are floating petri dishes, too.
Vacations are basically canceled for the foreseeable future.
Channel the Greatest Generation to have fun in your own backyard:
- explore a local hiking trail
- take a walk in your neighborhood
- play games outside
- sit outside and read
- treat your town like a tourist – explore outside locations
Note: all activities in public spaces should be outside and observing the 6-8 foot social distancing guideline. Avoid crowded places, playgrounds and indoor activities in public places.