I travelled by train when I needed to be in Hereford one morning this week. It is only a twelve-minute journey but taking the train means avoiding the horrendous early morning traffic and a rush hour journey time by car of at least forty minutes.
I spent the short journey surrounded by students from the Sixth Form College, all aged between 16 and 18 years old. All were reasonably well-dressed (in the fashions of today), and all were clutching expensive smartphones. The conversations of those not connected to their phones by headphones were interesting. Apart from the proliferation of swear words I realised that I was listening to children talking, rather than the young adults these students perceive themselves to be.
And so I began reminiscing and comparing! At their age I was already serving in the Merchant Navy. I had no phone. When I joined my first ship in Sweden at the tender age of sixteen, I had to write a letter to my parents to let them know that I had arrived safely. Five months later the first inkling they had that I was back in the UK was when I used a payphone at Heathrow Airport to tell them I had just arrived home from Japan. I don’t even think my parents knew that I had been in Japan!
Then my mind travelled back seventy-five years, transported there by the images in the media this week of D-Day when young men of a similar age to my fellow train travellers were jumping off landing craft and wading ashore on the beaches of Normandy, many of them not making it out of the sea or off the beach.
An article in this morning’s paper asked if our ‘snow flake generation’ would have the same resilience as the heroes of D-Day? I’m not sure that they would, but I would suggest that it is our fault not theirs. It was my generation that wanted to give our children lives better than we remember ours to have been, and I am guessing that our parents felt the same. Personally, I wouldn’t change anything. I’d much rather have grown up when I did than today. But I can’t get those images of D-Day out of my mind and I wonder if I would have exchanged my life as a teenager in the early 1970s for the life of one in the 1940s. Could I have walked into enemy fire and laid down my life so that future generations should not have to do the same?
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 KJV)