My dad and I were talking yesterday about some less obvious effects of the economy being in the crapper. People are freaking out all over the place, but it seems like everyone’s freaking out in different directions. I think this is a hard time for a lot of people, emotionally. After all, it is scary not knowing if there will be a next paycheck.
My dad recounted the time he lost his job during the “Rust-Belt” recession of the 1980s, on one hand many people were in the same boat, but others were still doing quite well and it was hard not to be incredibly jealous. Dad survived and came out on top, he credits the people who surrounded him positive attitudes and his miraculous conversion to Christianity. He can look back with the wisdom that comes with age, and still feels a tinge of sadness. His advice to me was to help people look at the little things that are still joyous in your life, and try to make the mundane special.
He’s right, of course. Many of you may not know this, but several years ago, my husband and I were ridiculously poor. Like, not having quite enough money every month to cover all the necessities poor. Like, driving a car that has 800 things wrong with it and is twice as old as your oldest kid and being glad to have it, poor. Like, beans and rice and beans and rice and beans and rice and beans and rice and for special occasions, rice and beans, poor. Like, living in the ghetto and considering cooking up the ham that the hood rats threw at your door, poor. When I think back on those times, I realize my dad’s advice was part of what carried us through those times. That, and our faith in God and the help from our families.
So, now I feel perfectly qualified to sit here typing at you today- you, who have lost jobs. You, who have had pay cuts. You, who have struggled in this time of rising prices and stagnant wages and aren’t quite making it. I’m not going to sit here and preach the thing that I think carried me through the most- faith in God. That’s not what I’m here for, but I do think I should at least mention it.
No, I’m here to sing from the rooftops that making the most of what little you have is going to help carry you through these times. Remember where your real treasure lies- your friends and family- and make the most of that. It’s the little things you’ll hang onto and remember, and the same will go for your kids.
I remember when I was a kid in the 80s and my dad had lost his job, we were having spaghetti for the 700th time that week. Nobody was happy about it and everyone was complaining about it. Finally, mom said, “Fine. We’ll have a spaghetti picnic.” We put a blanket out on the living room floor and had a spaghetti picnic. It was still dumb, stupid spaghetti, but somehow just the act of eating it on the floor made it better.
Or, when I was a single mom, my son and I had a tradition (started, actually, by my mom’s dad with them and carried on when I was a kid) of having “midnight snacks”. On payday Fridays we’d go out and grab hamburgers late at night and then nosh on them while watching whatever movie we had on hand, or happened to be on cable. My son and I carry this tradition to this day, when time permits since he’s a busy teenager.
It’s a tough thing to swallow when you’re down and out financially. But do the best you can, cover your basics first, and then try to make even the mundane special. Appreciate what you do have and try not to be jealous of what others have. Remember, someday it will be your time in the sun.