I have watched friends move on to new places and careers. I’ve watched dear friends lose jobs, knowing the old career would no longer be available to them. I’ve observed our country wrestle with the idea of what does health care really mean and who should have it. It’s been a strange, strange summer.
In some ways I am reminded of my father’s recounting of his own childhood during the Great Depression. While economists avoid the use of the “D”-word, it makes me think that there are lessons we can take from that trying economic time.
As a child Dad would pull a wagon around the back alleys and streets looking for tin cans and discarded metal. With what he was able to gather, he would then sell it to some sort of “recycler” in order to have a nickel (5 cents) for a loaf of bread to help feed the family. He would do this every day, regardless of the season in his hometown in Ohio.
And yet, there is a certain fondness he describes of the experience. Not that he would ever want to go back to that. But the lesson was this: the world did not end. Life went on and people found a way to rebuild their lives.
It is true that lives were changed. Careers took off in entirely different and unforseen directions. And there is a role for the government to play in preventing families from starving and having a place to sleep; in essence, to keep hope alive.
I don’t know or care if one calls it “socialism” or “charity”. My father, a staunch Republican, believed certain government programs (the WPA and the CCC) helped keep people alive. He always felt that was a valid role for government to play when times were horrid for the country.
What he tried to teach us was this: Calamity can provide an opportunity to re-examine our lives and our priorities. We don’t seek calamities. But we can use them to grow as a person, and as a better and noble human being.
I can only hope that during this time of economic malaise, we will also be able to come out of this more reflective, more adaptive, and more able to delight in the simple and priceless pleasures of friends, family, and hope for the new day.
“Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses” – Marilyn vos Savant
“Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting. And you don’t do that by sitting around wondering about yourself.” – Katherine Hepburn