I often hear people talking about their past, as if a past, replicated in the future, is the answer to all of our problems. "I just wish that things were the same as when I was a child. They were so much simpler then." Things are always much simpler for children than for adults. I once told my daughter that we could not buy something because we did not have enough money. "Well," she said, "just go to the bank and get some money." Simple.
People who want to return to an idyllic past forget that the 20th Century was virtually born into a world at war, and war has affected every succeeding generation of Americans into the 21rst Century. They forget that women could not vote until August 18, 1920; that black people were severely oppressed in this nation and their basic rights as citizens were denied by law until the early 1970's. Some of us have pasts that we are glad are past and we would not return to them.
Satchel Paige once said, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." If we spend all of our time looking backwards, the now will pass us by. Too many of us are rooted in a past that never existed, unable to move forward in the present; unable to see the present for what it is; a blessing; a gift from God. The secret of living in the present is not to live in the past but to live in the now; to constantly grow and transform ourselves into something better based on our past experiences.
Living fully in the present enables us to pay attention and to listen, really listen, to others. It enables us to help others in a way we could not otherwise do. It enables us to offer love without constraints. It enables us to forgive and make peace.
We cannot return to the past. We cannot change the past. But God has given us the brains to learn from our past and to live better lives and become better people in the present based on the past. If we do that, then we and our children may have better futures.