Opening Words from Sun. January 21 by Dean Jeffries

This morning I rolled out of bed. That was the easy part, getting up off the floor became a challenge.

I consider myself a morning person and usually wake up with a new energy from my sound slumber. I understand not everyone may share this trait, but for me it enhances my creative side and allows time for reflection. It was at one of these moments when I wrote these opening words.

My name is Dean Jeffries and my wife Barbara and I have been Ethical Society members for a few years now and enjoy the benefits of being a part of this vital community. Barbara and I share many common values and life experiences. She and I are post WWII “Baby Boomers”, raised in Kansas and have remained in the midwest for most of our lives.

You may recall from a previous opening words we presented together that we met each other on the Yahoo Personals dating site. Our first meet-up was over coffee at Starbucks, we hit it off immediately as the banter was non-stop about all that we had experienced in our lives. We are in our 9th year of marriage and grateful to have blended our lives together. We share 7 adult children and 9 grandchildren.

I was born in Kanas City, Kansas and lived the first couple of years of my life at 204 1/2 N. 32nd Street, in a trailer parked on a vacant lot next to my maternal grandparents home. The address of 204 1/2 was because of the trailers location, and the fact that utilities came from my grandparents home next door. My parents were like many post WWII couples, living on love and buying on time, through hard work they managed to change our family status from poor to middle class. As my uncle often said, ‘That was a time before anyone told us we were poor’. For me, living next door to my grandparents and having aunts and uncles to care for me was the greatest childhood. My mother was the oldest of 5 children and her brothers and sisters became mine. I was the only male grandchild for several years, so these close knit relationships helped form my values. It also gave me a false sense of self-esteem, a challenge for my formative years. I was told I was the greatest and would do great things in life. In addition I was the oldest of 4 children, with high expectations from my parents. Naturally I did not want to disappoint all these adults with high expectations.

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s I was influenced by Walt Disney Cartoons, Mickey Mouse Club, I Love Lucy and Elvis Presley music. The TV set was as vital as the dining room table and the source of joy when it worked and depression when it broke. In those days we had 3 channels, and it was non-24×7 as it is today. The highlight of a Sunday night TV lineup was watching Ed Sullivan’s variety show. It was while watching that show I introduced to Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and appearances by lots of Hollywood Stars. If you didn’t have Mickey Mouse Ears and a Coon Skin Cap like Davey Crockett you were not accepted in the neighborhood.

My generation became accustomed to the finer things in life, suburban addresses, new automobiles and family vacations across America. Life was patterned after Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens and Look and Life magazine. The Christmas holidays started with the arrival of the Sears Catalogue. A life of wishes, joy and hope.

My generation was also defiant towards the establishment, we made a stand against some traditional social and cultural norms. We grew our hair long, wore tie-dyed shirts and beads for necklaces. Many of us took a stance on race, war, poverty, and voiced the need for change and social justice. We sought love over hate, unity over segregation, and out of our ranks came leaders and advocates for these causes.

I joined the U.S. Navy in 1967 and served on a 7th Fleet Destroyer in the South China Sea, Tonkin Gulf, off the coast of Viet Nam. Sea Duty took me to many ports of call in the Pacific and home to Long Beach, California, for an honorable discharge in 1971.

Career and family has kept me in the midwest for the remainder of my life. I consider myself to be a life-long learner and the Ethical Society offers me many opportunities to continue this path. I attend the Men’s Forum, Laughter Yoga, and many of the activities here at Ethical. Barbara and I have hosted Ethicureans Dinners and hope to do more fun events and volunteering this year. We see the Ethical Society as a community full of growth and opportunity, we hope many of you feel the same way.

See you downstairs after Platform where we can mingle and get to know each other better.

Thank you.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.