Framing the Dialogue

Everything But Money

Sam Levenson grew up in a time and place where money was in short supply and immigrant families had to struggle to survive. There were no welfare systems, no government handouts, and no free cell phones. Levenson and his family had to rely on each other, their family, and neighbors to survive. To use the book’s title they had Everything but Money.

I am not sure exactly when Levenson grew up in New York City, but it was probably around the Great Depression. Though I was born many decades later I can relate to many of the “kid” stuff that he experienced. We didn’t always have a perfect place to play ball so we played in the street. To us an organized ball game was having enough players, gloves, balls, and bats to play a “half field” game. Hits to right field were an automatic out. Only time will tell whether those of the “Greatest Generation” were America’s pinnacle, but there is a lot that can be learned from Levenson’s experiences and his stories are great to read.

The end of the book where he gets things “off his chest” was where my interest waned. I had to keep telling myself that this book was first published in 1949. I found one part particularly ironic when he was lamenting about the needs of public education,

“concepts of a richer personal life through gaining by sharing, multiplication of happiness by division, subtraction from the larger to add to the smaller, should be written into the day-to-day curriculum of our schools. We are now teaching ethics marginally, subliminally, incidentally – if at all. The subject of civilized human relations is too important to be left to chance.” [Emphasis added]

The irony to me was that the first 80 percent of the book described his experiences that shaped his ethics. I read about how he thrived to become the man he became not because of some formal curriculum, but through living. I have to ask why someone who became so “rich” because of his early experiences now would advocate that this be taught in schools rather than learned through life as he did. Why would someone who gained so much from life and family now be willing to relinquish the role of the ethics model to a teacher rather than a father or mother?

The stories are great, but feel free to skip the preaching.

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