I must stop helping with grocery shopping. Either I go on a day when the Girl Scouts are selling cookies and I buy one of each kind. Or I tend to eavesdrop on the conversations of shoppers.

The other day was just one of those last occasions. A gentleman reflected to a friend that he longed for the “good old days.” I almost gagged. What good old days?

Since the person making the remark was about my age, I slowed to think a bit. I remember a couple of wars, where young men and women fought and died in battles in Europe and Asia. In the good old days, horrific diseases like polio, tuberculosis, whooping cough, measles and mumps were killing our young. Those scourges were as frightening as HIV and swine flu are today.

Women could not buy a car or get credit without a co-signer because they were “too frail” to weather the stress of paying the bill; this, at a time when “Rosie the Riveter” was an icon for WWII.

Advanced education for a woman included teaching, nursing and/or secretarial studies. The reality was that marriage was the ultimate goal. No careers as a doctor, lawyer or even Indian chief were offered. Who would marry a female doctor anyway? However, I still think Indian chief would have been my choice.

The challenges of yesterday were much the same as those of today. Each generation is faced with remarkable opportunities to create a better life. What we once feared, we no longer fear. Granted the old diseases have made way for new ones. As usual, we will find cures, we always have.

Many of the issues of today were given to us by previous generations, my generation being one of them. We have made huge strides in addressing them. Stopping war is one issue we must concentrate on. History shows that in every generation war was part of the make-up of society. I hope our success in conquering diseases will spill over into stopping war. Maybe a vaccine that prevents war could be developed with the condition that every human being must be inoculated. No exceptions! Then we could focus on hunger, homelessness and the environment.

This reflection comforts me. I know that as we met the challenges of the past, we will meet those of the future. Today will be tomorrow’s “good old day.”

Unfortunately, this causes me to shop one more time. I hope the Girl Scouts are not there, but that man in the grocery store must be told to look around him. He must know that the good old days are now; we, and he, should be pleased.

After that it will be grocery shopping retirement for me. Being married to a man who loves to clip coupons, sniff melons, squeeze tomatoes and count the number of tissues in a box ensures me that I will have food and paper products.