The Kids Are Not Okay—and Neither Is America

Collin Hansen | May 16, 2017

It seemed like such a small, insignificant request. My cousin wanted ice in his tap water. He probably wasn’t older than 10, and I was maybe 13. But our grandmother didn’t see his request as small. I don’t remember her exact words. I do remember they went something like this: “What kind of coddled child needs ice in his water?”

My grandmother is a child of the Great Depression. She entered adulthood as World War II concluded. She’s traveled around the world but never lived outside the same rural county in South Dakota. Until the last few years she lived on the farm where my grandfather, great-grandfather, uncles, and father earned a middle-class living for our family. Growing up I toiled alongside them; or, at least, they tolerated my feeble attempts.

But on this memorable occasion my cousin was visiting with his family from out of state. And my grandmother believed she needed to teach us a lesson. She wanted both of us to know the difference between need and want, between necessity and luxury. She wanted us to realize how good we had it. And she wanted us to appreciate the painful labor that made such simple treats as ice water…

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