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The more things change …

By: Susan Rushton
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Before I write about the upcoming election, I must make a correction to last week’s column. I discussed my participation in the Auburn Co-op, on the first Thursday of the month. The location has changed. Coming up next Thursday, June 7, I’ll be happily participating at the event, from 5 to 9 p.m. on Sacramento and Lincoln Streets in Old Town. For information, investigate oldtownauburnca.com/events.

… OK. Maybe this isn’t just about the election. Maybe it’s about change. And getting used to that change. And once you’re used to that, more change comes.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” — Winston Churchill

Years ago, when I first worked for the Journal, a propane truck overturned on I-80: chaos for hours. Lincoln Way School was still open then — where the police department is now. Anyway, the classes were transferred to Placer High, mostly in the auditorium. My assignment: Head on over there and see what was going on.

I found two kinds of kids: some were thrilled, no better word for it. Wow, cool school day, different, a little dangerous. At least that’s what they’d been told. They had personally not seen evidence of danger, but it sure sounded interesting. They hunkered down and told themselves stories of the kinds of things that might happen. The more stories they told each other the more excited they got.

These were the fourth- and fifth-graders. The big kids. The others were the youngsters. These kindergarteners and first-graders wanted answers. They didn’t want to be here. They wanted to be over where they’d been earlier that morning. Where things made sense.

Lots of these kids sat puzzled and concerned next to the grownups who worked to reassure them. It’ll be OK, the kids heard. And kept hearing. The longer they heard all this reassurance, the more nervous they got.
Yeah, but if it’s going to be OK, how come we’re here, in this strange place? How come we’re not where we usually are? Why can’t we go back? Why can’t we go back now? Don’t give me this “soon,” what’s “soon”? And how can it be OK if all you once-dependable grownups can’t tell me when “soon” is?

The older kids had experienced change. They’d moved and survived, they’d ridden the bus and survived, they’d met new people and survived. They were old hands at this.

The younger ones had experienced less change, and they approached differentness with skepticism. “I know what I want and this ain’t it. I know where I’m comfortable, and this ain’t it.”

Undoubtedly, however, the fifth-graders still looked at spinach and said the heck with it. No fools, they — they didn’t embrace all change. They just weren’t as skeptical as the ones with trembling lips.

“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.”—Sydney J. Harris

I know, this is another column about change. The problem I have with change as I get older — and maybe I’m all by myself here — is that I get used to something as it is and then it changes. Or I work to get used to something that has recently changed and before I understand it, I have to replace it. And I have to get used to the replacement … before I have to replace the replacement.

Here I go, off on a tangent. I once knew a nurse who had worked with children for decades. She knew how to comfort them, make them laugh, ease their fears, give them shots without traumatizing them. She was good at this. Then she took another job. She was still a nurse, but now she was working with adults. Uh-oh, she told me. What did she know about easing the way for grownups? How can I ease a 40-year-old’s fears?

I don’t know anything about adults.

Turns out her experiences with children were the perfect training for her new job. Working with kids had taught her exactly how to calm adults, ease the way, make them laugh. She’d taken the children’s fears seriously; she did the same for the adults. Adults, she learned, are still children.

“Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.” — Bertolt Brecht

You either want change or don’t, depending on the time of day. You’re an old hand at this. Just recall the myriad changes you’ve lived through — that you either noticed at the time or didn’t. Changes you’ve lived through in spite of yourself.

Once electric cars were considered hilarious. Once suggesting paying for television programming was the kiss of death for a company. Once a house cost less. Once nobody knew what naan is. Once the tax code was different. Once “dope” as an adjective meaning “great” wasn’t considered passé. Once a cell phone was evidence of wealth. Once you could buy a decent tomato in the grocery store.

Once only male white property owners could vote. Once you couldn’t vote. Now you can. I hope you will on Tuesday. Join me and be the change you wish to see in the world.

“All things must change to something new, to something strange.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Susan Rushton’s opinion column appears regularly in the Auburn Journal. Her email is rushton@suddenlink.net.