Values and the Status Quo

ChangeStatus QuoValues

            I have lived long enough to see and be a part of peoples’ lives of six different “generations.” A generation, whether anthropological or biblical, generally is a period of about 25 years—measured from the birth of a parent to the birth of a child. My life has spanned the lives of people cumulatively living that long. When I think of the term “status quo” I find myself wondering “whose status quo,” and if it changes, how and for what, if any, conscious reasons. And how can we choose to reclaim values that have dissipated or disappeared.

           When I was a young child I had a maternal great-grandmother (of the so-called “GI Generation” (their economic depression was called the “Great One” and their war was called “the Big One”), who then in her 90’s was riddled with diabetes, blind and confined mostly to bed. She was not born in this country and did not speak English.The highlight of her day was, in all her frailty, just to be able to touch “di kinder;” Yiddish for the children.

           My paternal grandparents who came to this country from Russia in the 1930’s already were dead before my birth. My maternal grandparents were alive into my twenties (my grandfather who arrived from Russia in 1902), and forties (my grandmother who was born in America). Those two generations (grand and great parents) composed a snapshot of the immigrants who helped build this country through the era of WWI, prohibition, the Great Depression and the pre-WWII years. Certainly hard work, self-reliance and honor were among their cornerstones.

          My parents, were products of these generations, and the depression era. They were raised in the strictest of values. My father, as the acknowledged smartest of three siblings, was sent by his oldest brother (then the patriarch of the family) to college and dental school (where my father went because there still was a quota on the admission of Jews to medical schools); this gift in a generational fair-deal exchange for my father’s abdication to his oldest brother of any interest in the family business. They knew hardship, WWII and post-war prosperity, and held dearly the promise and celebration of world-wide peace. And of course, something better for their children.

         My family was the status quo, as I understood it. We  ate dinner together every night at 6. My mother, an accomplished pianist, spent her day-long hours making her house perfect for her kids and her husband. At night, after all the food and cleaning was accounted for, and we kids were in bed, my mother would have her rituals, which normally included reading through the night, with a chocolate bar, a bag of WISE potato chips and a cup of coffee at her bedside. Neither my mother nor father, like their friends with their kids, ever watched one of my soccer practices, or came to a game. But they had a value set, and somehow watched it disintegrate with my generation.

         I am a baby boomer, and particularly of the segment of that generation who set out to save the world, as opposed to those closely following within my generation, oft-called the yuppies, each of us part of the “me” generation. We did not raise our children like our parents. It was in our generation that the family meal tradition was first lost, though in its place was the never-ending participation in things, resulting in award to kids for that mere participation. Did we too consciously abandon the status quo of our parents, and did we ever think of the ramifications of change (as we so often were warned)?

        Now, like my grandparents and parents, I get to watch and marvel at Generation X, and Generation Y, the “millennials”. No one who might read this needs the story on them other than to say that while my generation was a product of my parent’s generation’s influences and laxity, the Gen-X and Millennials are a product of me and mine.

        So this is the perspective from which I write about the status quo and values. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines status quo as “the current situation: the way things are now.” And the specific question is whether we want, at any given time, to cherish and “keep the status quo.” This decision-making process, if there is one, may be based on economic, sociological, ethical, anthropological, nationalistic, religious, ethnic, moral or other considerations. And what is of interest to me, is how if at all those decisions are influenced by, and in kind influence, our “values”. Put another way, are our values the driving force behind the agencies of change, or the detritus of change.

         As an entrepreneur (and thus, necessarily an agent of change), I believe change is good….and necessary; change helps certain things move forward, and in this sense, is as inevitable as the changing of seasons (a whole other question these days). As a person, I find myself often bemoaning the unintended consequence of change. When change is necessary, or when it just occurs, do we trouble over whether it is necessary for our values to change in lock-step. If it is not necessary, do we fight for alternatives, exercising a choice to govern our participation in change, by enforcing, or not giving up some essential set of values given to us through the generations?

       The values I was given as a child involved the Golden Rule, and “a job worth doing is a job worth doing well”, and “my word being my bond”, and that the name of my forefathers, my name, was all one had and was to be protected at any cost. If you are looking here for answers, I cannot give them. This is personal to each of us. I know that at various times in my life, I abandoned my values, and always paid a price, not the least of which included guilt, and the questioning of self-worth.

       What I can refer to is now, how this time around, I chose to re-open the Stoop with deliberate changes. Months have been spent with an amazing group of managers, first starting with an examination of our values, discussion upon discussion to make sure we knew who we were and who we wanted to be. We created a family of values. And not until those values were in place, did we first speak about creating the restaurant as vehicle for those values. We want TSK to be an agent of change, community and education, a vehicle for more than just serving great food and fun. Our choice was for our values to be the driving force behind how we define and defend a chosen status quo.

       We hope that our values serve us, and you, well. We will want to hear from you on how well we do that.