Current Economic Challenges Not New to Some

 

We could all learn from those learned their lessons of value in the Great Depression era.

“Dad,” I said over breakfast the other day. “I couldn’t help but notice there is brand-new belt on the dresser – but it doesn’t have a buckle. I’m just curious, why’d you by a brand-new belt that didn’t have buckle on it?’

Without missing a beat, he replies as if everyone should know the answer.

“I’ve lots of buckles at home, but it was a good quality belt for one-dollar.”

His words seemed so odd to me as I’m sure would be to most anyone of my generation. The idea of buying a belt that would require me to go home, strip the buckle from another, reattach, would simply never cross my mind.

But to those who grew up in the Great Depression, there a lessons for us all to learn.

Work, value, and self-reliance all seemed to underscore a generation who brought with them tools and instincts not typically found in those of a great many of my peers.

I grew up in what could be called the “Great Disposable Society” – a world where everything would quickly find itself worn out or replaceable in a very brief time. Even an item as simple as shirt might find itself disposable after a single season in my generation. My grandmother, on the other hand, would sew buttons, stitch patches on rips – anything to prolong the life of an item of clothing. And when a shirt finally did reach the end of it’s life, she’d recycle the cloth into patches to make a quilt.

Very little, in the end, was fully disposable to those who experienced the Great Depression.

But they were not alone. The other day a friend shared with me her a family heirloom of which I’d never before laid eyes upon: a ration book from the second world war.

“Look,” she said, “this is his signature.”

The brown, weathered booklet was issued to her father when a young boy when even the most basic of supplies were restricted.

“If you don’t need it, don’t buy it,” said copy on the back cover in an effort to encourage careful consumption. Further along it even boldly stated to be wasteful was to essentially steal from others in the war effort – and therefore, you’d be helping the enemy.

These lessons forged under great economic duress, helped shape a strong, successful society.

But today there is hope. I see more and more younger people who are actively relearning their consumption habits from growing and canning their own vegetables to learning to recycle items most in my generation might consider useless. The movement, under the banner ‘green’, is truly a breath of fresh air and one I know those of earlier generations would applaud.

But after a lifetime of being schooled in the lessons of the “Great Disposable Society,” these changes just might prove harder to learn for some of us than others.

As for me, I’m still trying to wrap my head around why my dad would purchase a belt without belt buckle.

– 30 –

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First Day of School Offers Life-Long Lesson

Many times we tend to forget there is nothing like the very first day of school.

The other day a friend of mine was telling me about how his young daughter is so excited to start kindergarten she is constantly walking around the house in her new backpack and a book tucked under her arm.

“It’s a chapter book,” he said. “She’ll crawl up on the sofa when no one is looking and ask me to read it to her.”

This, if you’re a parent, is one of truly special moments – when our children are so hungry to learn they can barely sit still or go to sleep at night.

The week before his wife brought home a pink, fluffy diary for their daughter.

“You know,” my friend added, “our daughter will sit down at the table each day and fill pages with nothing but letters and then turn to us and say ‘look what I wrote in my diary today.”

Recently I found myself traveling out of the county only to discover this thirst, this hunger to learn, is universal.

Driving down an unpaved road in a small coastal town, I spotted a handful of children walking towards a nearby school. Dressed in blue shorts, white shirts and each with a small bag for their books, they were laughing and teasing each other as the road lead them through an area most of us would only define as extreme poverty – except it was their home.

Carefully navigating around the students on the uneven road, I  noticed the youngest boy broke off into a foot race with our car, his face bobbing up and down outside the window. With a radiant smile, you could see his pure happiness, his enthusiasm for the particular moment in his life.

Somewhere along the line, our thirst for education goes from a foot race to a marathon. The first day of school excitement fades for many as the years pass. By the time many enter their senior year of high school, their heads are filled with countless distractions and social pressures. The lure of learning, unfortunately, finds its gravity weakening in the eyes of many.

Earlier this week my wife ran across a photo of our daughter standing in the driveway, dwarfed by an oversize backpack while beaming a brilliant smile over her right-hand shoulder on her first day of kindergarten. She, too, shared the energy of my friend’s young daughter as well as the young boy who raced alongside my car the month before.

Learning – or the unbridled thirst to learn like my friend’s daughter – is something we would all love to bottle, store, and uncork as needed throughout our entire lives. Some of us tend to forget the accuracy of the old saying that “we are the sum of our experiences”. We are — fortunately or not — just that. What you put in, generally determines what comes out.

Learning is a life-changing experience – but the drive must come from within. Our mind is designed to learn from the day it first flickers to life until the day we take our final breath. But the energy and enthusiasm for the long run learning is purely up to us.

The secret, however, might actually might be closer to home than we think. Maybe, just maybe, all we need to do is remember how to act like a kid on our first day of school for the rest of our lives.

– 30 –

Bumper Sticker a Metaphor for Perspective

I can learn a lot about how to deal with challenges in life from my daughter and the bumper sticker now on back of her car.

The lesson, however, is not in the message printed on the silver vinyl, but rather the symbolic imperfections resting below the sticker itself.

“Why is there a bumper stick on the back of the car?” I asked my wife.

“Well,” she said, “she kind of backed into a wall and scratched the paint on the bumper. Her solution was to make it go away by putting a bumper sticker over it like a Band-Aid.”

I thought about the situation and our daughter’s creative solution. To me, being in the same situation would’ve eaten me up. The offensive scrape would be calling out to me in my sleep, urging me to get to a body shop the next day and have the new imperfection either buffed out or repaired by a professional.

To my daughter, imperfections add, what she calls ‘character.’

I remember the first dent on her car, only months after she collected her permit.

Backing her car out of the garage in the dark, her front quarter-panel clipped the side of the wall as she cut the wheels a bit too quickly. The wall was fine – the car left with a two-foot indentation.

“I’ll get it up to the body shop and see what they say,” I said to her, thinking this would help relieve her from feeling too bad for an innocent mistake.

Instantly she shared a penetrating look you can only project as a teenager.

“Why?” she said. “I was too perfect before. Now this gives it character.”

Most of us in life tend to put too much gravity into the value of the mistakes we make in life. For many of us, we replay the situations or events over and over, wishing we’d made a different choice, hoping for a different result.

But the truth is most the people in our lives never really notice or care about our little mistakes or imperfections to the extent we do.

Life is a long, hard road filled with difficult decision to make – many times made with incomplete information or not enough time to think them through. No one gets out of life without an occasional anxious moment of wishing we could get a ‘do-over’. But it is just those mistakes, those lessons we learn along the way, which help to form the basis for our character in life.

Like the scrape on the back of our daughter’s car — the one now hidden below a bumper sticker — some mistakes are relatively small in inconsequential in the big picture of life. Beating ourselves up for innocent little ‘dings’ in life is probably counter-productive and can lead an unfair sense of self-worth. We all probably need to learn to be a bit more forgiving to ourselves.

In life, mistakes will happen. Some big. Some small. Maybe what I need to learn from my daughter is how to slap a cool bumper sticker over most of them and remind myself there are much bigger things in life to worry about.

– 30 –

Life, love and other four-letter words

Four-letter words suffer from a reputation problem.

Recently I found myself reflecting on how much my perspective on life continues to evolve over time – now in a place I could never imagine during my youth. Today, as I am approaching the equivalent of 50,000 miles on the odometer, I see the world through a set of lenses noticing the best things in life are not for sale. And at the root of it all are a handful of powerful four-letter words.

Love, if you ask me, is easily the most valuable and powerful force in life. Love is simply the scientific equivalent of water in our biological makeup. Without it, everything ceases to exist. Love seems to seep into our lives at the most unexpected times, many times challenging not only our beliefs and emotions, but also our ability to apply mature logic to our decisions.

My wife and I like to joke about how we both ran into each other at the very moment we weren’t looking for love.

Both of us were in in college and enjoying the freedom you only experience of youth when the world begins to reveal itself before your imagination. Everyday was a new experience, new emotion, and a new horizon. And for both us, a casual date at a downtown deli was just another experience along the way.

Then we kissed.

To this day we can both tell you about what we felt at that moment. As she tells it, she said to herself “No, not now. This isn’t supposed to happen yet.”

Little did she know at the time the very same electricity raced though me on the other side of her lips.

I can promise you, neither of us was ready for the life-changing moment. But then, that is what love can do. In an instant, love can alter your most closely held wants, desires and intentions. And surprisingly, you are rendered helpless.

From there, love led us to build another four-letter word, life.

Slowly, over time, we began to learn to understand building a life together. And like most, we ran the gamut of emotions and found ourselves challenged by some very trying times. But fortunately, life was born out of love. And like water to a plant, love kept us together, growing and changing along the way.

Life then led us to another life-changing word: home. As we marched forward with time, children came into our lives and together we built home – not one with lumber and paint, but a feeling of comfort and being together. For us, home is not defined by a street address, state or even or whatever town we live in. Rather, home is a place where you discover love and life working together to create a unique feeling of comfort you only experience when surrounded by those you love.

If we think about it, four-letter words sprinkle all of our lives for the better. We learn to be kind, understand how to live, and the value of protecting and nurturing hope. But in the end, one single four-letter world is the basis spark for everything good in our lives: love.

So go ahead, fill your day and life with four-letter words and watch the magic happen.

–       30 –