The Upside of Down Times

The other day I found myself in a conversation with a man who, due to his particular field of business, finds himself in an intimate relationship with people who are severely impacted by this extended and brutal downturn in the economy.

“You know,” he said. “If this economy teaches us anything, hopefully it’ll be to appreciate life more than before. ‘Things’ just aren’t as important anymore.”

His words found a welcome home in my heart.

There is no denying this particular stretch of economic disruption is creating pain and suffering on too many good people. As a matter of fact, the term ‘disruption’ is too kind of a term for those who’ve seen their entire lives upended due – many times – to circumstances beyond their control.

Throughout the day I continued to think about the man’s words. There are times you can sense something itching inside of you but it takes someone else to put the feelings into words for you to fully understand how you’re feeling. His words just reinforced what many of us feel today.

They say the best comedy is anchored securely in the truth. Last night I found myself watching a comedian doing a stand up routine when he suddenly brought up the very same subject rolling around in my head all day.

“You know, we (Americans) are the whiniest babies in the world. We have so much stuff we could give half of it away and still have a hundred times more than the average person on the planet – yet we’re never happy.”

He went on to point out how most people walk around with cell phones in their pockets that can do just about anything – yet we complain about it taking a few extra moments to download an image. Or if we’re on an airplane, we think it is appropriate to file a suit if we sit on the tarmac a little too long. One person felt entitled to millions because their coffee  was too hot at a fast-food restaurant.

While I found his diatribe funny, I also recognized the undeniable honesty in his observations. Our current generation of society is conditioned to believe material objects and the action of acquiring them directly reflects on us as a person. Furthermore, many adopted an attitude of entitlement. Not entitlement of basic needs, but of the finest things in life.

Well, something is changing out there. Today more and more people are recognizing our behavior just might be out of synch with what really matters most in life. No longer is the goal to buy the biggest house on the block. Actually, a roof over your head for too many is now just as important.

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve too much ‘stuff’. Somewhere along the line after the economy tanked, I began feeling guilty about the amount shirts, pants and shoes in my closet. While I know it is natural to accumulate clothes, I no longer feel comfortable looking in my closet and seeing items I’ve not worn for a long time. I now see clothes someone else might desperately need. And now, along with many others, I regularly find myself dropping off items at the local Salvation Army or Goodwill stores so they can directly help others.

Anyone who is living though this very difficult and unnerving chapter without a major disruption to their lives should feel very blessed. Let’s not let the lessons this experience is offering go to waste. Let’s remember to thank God and open our hearts to others.

– 30 –

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