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Dreams for the 21st Century
By Betsy Bannerman
Clearly, people are focused on the upcoming millennium. It has spawned the Y2K fears and the wary wait for the next stock market crash. It's the reason we have all these 100-best-of-the-century lists, from films to athletes to sexy men. It may be the reason the National Enquirer is publishing stories about the end of the world and the Second Coming. People see something important, even symbolic, here.
On the "Time Line of the 20th Century"-- the banner that hangs upstairs in the Noe Valley Ministry -- my son and I have had fun after church, grabbing markers and scribbling in little milestones, such as the first snow-making machine, the first Zippo lighter, the first Crayolas (and when the pink crayon called "Flesh" finally bit the dust).
Other people have pored over the Almanac and written in the biggies, like the Depression, the drought, elections, wars. I didn't even know that there had been a plague outbreak in San Francisco after the '06 earthquake.
Many inclusions are personal (Katie bought her first really cool automobile, 8-30-99). Many have affected the whole world (Adolph Hitler elected chancellor of Germany, 1933). Lots are about endings -- deaths, treaties, diseases that have been conquered. Babe Ruth's last baseball game, 1935.
And there are beginnings, too: births, marriages, incredible inventions. Janet Reno, first woman to be named U.S. Attorney General, 1993. There are events we all remember happening (Beatles come to New York, 1965), and ones we can't believe took so long to happen (American Indians declared U.S. citizens by Act of Congress, 1924).
I think of my grandmother who, in the first two decades of the 20th century, had six children, no car and no washing machine. My mother, in the 1940s, had four children, no disposable diapers, no dishwasher, and no television. And in the last decade of the 20th century, I have one child and I buy lettuce already washed, shredded, and packaged.
The man in the moon has become the men on the moon. Delivering the mail through rain, sleet, and hail has become instantaneous, anonymous e-mail.
For sure, it now takes less time and effort for us to do things than it did at the beginning of the century. And many of this century's inventions have been dramatically helpful. But in saving and improving people's lives, have we come any closer to understanding one another? Or have we become more lazy and careless about how we treat one another and the earth? What lessons -- learned, and still to be learned -- will we carry into the next 100 years?
One of the most intriguing parts of the Noe Valley Ministry's Time Line is the part after the 2000: "Dreaming Our Future." So far, the only writings there are "Joe Hill Never Died" and "Affordable housing, health care, and quality education." Good dreams.
Goodbye, 20th. Good luck, 21st.