Friday, July 8, 2011

The Same Boat

My grandpa, definitely a dirt farmer
I love to talk to seniors about their memories, and often the absorbing topic of the Great Depression comes up. The obvious, always asked question is: "How did you handle the extreme deprivation?" And over and over, the answer is surprising and the same...perhaps said in slightly different words...but always the same. The answer: "We got through it because everyone was in the same boat. There was no one to feel inferior to, because we were all the same way. And we got out of it together."

As we face a cataclysmic national debt and the fall-out from that, I fear that we will not 'find our way out' the way our great-grandparents did. Our narcissistic need to live our lives like we are celebrities, with our credit card debt, our McMansions, our car payments, our multiple bathrooms that are now a 'necessity', our Gap clothes that are only in our closets for a season, our restaurant dining that now, according to a national statistic is a three times a week occurrance....these are making the economic recession that swirls around us even more terrifying...and we are even more vulnerable.

Our ancestors had many things today that our money cannot buy. One, they had lower expectations. They knew that a paid-for home trumped a luxury vacation every time, and that money saved and hand-me-downs were far more a sign of stability/wealth than spa treatments and fat credit card statements. Two, they were resourceful and thrifty. Back then, they bragged if they made something themselves or got it for a pittance. They canned and gardened and sewed clothes out of flour sacks. Today, we still like to flash and show off the huge amounts we spent on items, our 'bling'. Number three, they knew what really mattered. When you're living in the dust bowl, I'm sure it becomes plain real quickly that the most important things in life are faith, family, friends and food. And they knew that a person never, ever is his or her material possessions. They knew that a man's word meant something, but it wasn't just his word, it was how hard and how honorably he worked.

In an age where so many think that they are automatically special, that they deserve the best in life without earning it, I fear that there will be even more suffering than the Great Depression. Buried in our stuff, we have lost the real treasures.

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