The older I get the more recent historical events seem to be. When I was a kid, World War II felt like something that occurred seemingly centuries earlier – back when things were in black and white. But I was born less than 20 years following the war’s end. My kids were born 23 years ago – that’s a drop in the bucket in terms of time. Yet, 23 years before I was born, England was rationing food and the U.S. began distributing the first Social Security checks.
A couple of weeks ago, I met a 105-year-old woman from Kentucky. This lady uses a cell phone. Kentucky didn’t have electricity anywhere in the state until she was 20 years old. She was born during World War I, amid the Spanish Flu pandemic. Her grandfather told her stories about being a teenager during the American Civil War.
I sat with a woman who is one degree of separation from Abraham Lincoln. She has lived through two World Wars and the Great Depression. She has also gone from travelling on horseback to being able to affordably fly to Europe. She didn’t have a telephone until she was in her 30s. Now she has a Facebook account and, with a little help, texts silly emojis to her great-great-grandchildren. Her journey is a testament to the rapid evolution of technology in her lifetime.
In the grand scheme of things, 105 years isn’t that long, especially when you realize we’ve been celebrating Christmas for almost 1,700 years, that Homo sapiens are about 300,000 years old or that the Smoky Mountains were formed more than 200 million years ago. Every time someone dies we lose some connection to a past that becomes increasingly more recent as we grow older.
Yet every time a child is born, new connections emerge, sparking a wealth of possibilities that might unfold over the next 60 or 105 years. Some people develop deep, meaningful personal connections; others live their lives on a more surface level, without ever getting their emotional or intellectual plow very deep into the ground. Every infant comes into a world full of unimaginable possibilities. We have no idea what the world will look like in 105 years. But with every birth there is hope – an expectation of a future that will be better than the present. That’s how it has worked for thousands of years, and I’m willing to bet it works that way for at least a few thousand more.
If you haven’t seen the Chevrolet “A Holiday to Remember” commercial, it’s worth 5 minutes to watch this long version. Have some tissue handy.
David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management. A version of this piece originally appeared in the USA TODAY NETWORK.