Hard times! Recession! Depression! Disaster! As bad as the Great Depression!
Come on, people, where’s your common sense? Where are your history books? I didn’t live through the Great Depression, but my parents did. And based on their stories alone, I can tell you we’re nowhere near the conditions of the Great Depression.
We haven’t seen a total stock market collapse, or nationwide runs on most of our banks. We haven’t begun to approach the Great Depression’s 25% unemployment. We don’t have breadlines forming in every major city, or tent cities and shantytowns — “hoovervilles” — springing up everywhere. And being from Oklahoma, I must note we don’t have farming families fleeing a Dust Bowl to look for jobs in southern California, as in The Grapes of Wrath.
We’ve become a spoiled rotten, instant gratification society with disposable income, disposable possessions, disposable lives. Don’t like what you’ve got? Toss it and replace it. Got a dent or a rip in something? Get a new one. Clothes or car or television no longer fashionable or in? Replace them. Get newer, better, faster, more! Whether you can afford it or not. But of course you can afford it; you’ve got credit!
Americans haven’t always lived like this. There are things called belt-tightening, living within your means, living on a budget, being frugal, saving for what you need, and paying as you go (with cash!). If today’s purchase can be put off until tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or done without altogether, you do it.
I learned a WWII-era expression from my parents: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” It made good sense then; it makes good sense now. Clothing can be mended with a needle and thread, fabric glue, or iron-on patches. Shoes and leather goods can be resoled, restitched, or mended in remarkable ways by a clever cobbler, if you’re lucky enough to still have a little shoe repair shop in your area. Appliance repairmen actually exist and make inoperable things work again.
If the appliances and electronics and cars at your house still perform their basic functions, you don’t need new ones. Sure, you might want the latest features, but you don’t need them. Most people seem to have forgotten there’s a world of difference between “want” and “need.”
Yes, we’re living through some scary times. Not knowing what’s going to happen or how bad things might get is worrisome, to say the least. (And having already reached my retirement years, rest assured this pep talk is for myself as well as you.) So much of it is beyond our control. Not seeing a clear, bright path rising before us is something we’re not used to, something you may never have experienced at all.
Maybe we should all just stop listening to the fear-mongering and disasterizing from Washington and the media. Better minds than ours are working on the problem and all we can do as individuals is all we can do. We keep on keepin’ on. If just for today we have roofs over our heads and food on our tables, friends and family to support us, and health to get us through to tomorrow, then we can hang on a little longer.