By TERRY AHNER

tahner@tnonline.com

The Way We Were.

Upon first glance, those words may evoke images of the 1970s film starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand.

While the movie was an absolute box office success, the intent of this column is not to write a review of the Academy Award-winning film.

Instead, it's about taking a moment to go back to a simpler time, when kind deeds and harmless fun were the rule, rather than the exception.

Maybe it was the era in which I grew up in, or perhaps, the company I kept, that has fostered my way of thinking.

Label me old-school, but that time frame was vastly different from today's maddening society that seemingly goes off the deep end at the mere flip of a switch.

It was a time when a simple flash of the headlights between drivers was seen as a form of courtesy.

A time when families went out to dinner and actually paid attention to each other through the art of conversation.

And a time when a handshake was as golden as any words that could be verbally communicated.

That isn't to say the generation I grew up in was all peaches and cream, because it certainly was not by a long shot.

Crime was definitely present, but the acts that were committed didn't seem quite as dastardly or heinous in their approach.

Quite honestly, I'm amazed at how the landscape has changed over the past decade or so.

Nowadays, we have kids who enter schools with guns and shoot their innocent classmates, teachers or anyone else who dares to get in their way.

Or individuals who invade a movie theater and shoot people as they harmlessly take in a film.

And then there are those who sit at home on their computers and find instructions on how to devise ways to create homemade bombs to cause mass destruction.

Though I realize that only a slim percentage of individuals are responsible for these travesties, it doesn't change the fact that the crimes are becoming scarier by the minute.

Sadly, it doesn't appear as though there's any end in sight, which is of great cause for concern.

While extremely rewarding, life has a way of throwing enough pitfalls in our paths for us to have to worry about such nonsensical forms of behavior.

Attempts to determine what exactly is at the root of the problem would likely prove futile, as every case is different in its scope and magnitude.

Whether it's due to drugs, the economy, mental illness, or the like, the reality is we're in a troublesome period that requires some form of swift action.

Exactly what can be done to curtail these incidents from taking place, I haven't the answer.

In the meantime, we can only hope and pray situations such as these cease.

Since there are no time machines for us to climb into and go back in time, our options are limited.

Therefore, it's imperative that we try to make the best of the hand we've been dealt.

Hopefully, we can achieve this in a civilized manner, void of any crime or tragedy.

After all, life is too precious, and our time on Earth, much too short, to have to live our lives in fear.