It’s been said that each generation has its own worldly burdens to bear and finding the entire world grinding to a halt as we confront this unprecedented pandemic is certainly one of ours. We will feel the economic impact of what is happening for months and perhaps years from now, and yet, there may be lessons to be learned, a silver lining in some ways, in re-examining how we live our lives.
Retirees like myself find our stock market savings cut by a quarter with possibly even more losses on the horizon. But big picture: the house is paid for, the cars are paid for, and we have savings outside of the stock market. Many Americans are not so lucky. They’ve been living hand to mouth, paying rent, making car payments, buying food from tips or paychecks, and laying out for monthly child care. They’ve ordered food or grabbed bites at local establishments and might not really understand how to make their own chocolate chip cookies. (I met a young lady for whom this was true; she’d never made them. Girl, if you learn nothing else, you gotta learn to make cookies!)
Some of us grew up with parents who’d experienced the Great Depression back in the early 30’s followed by the recession of the late 30’s. My father served in the army for World War II. He may not have said much about it, but when he came home, he got married, got his college degree, and bought a small pharmacy. That small pharmacy grew to two businesses that have been the bread and butter for two generations of my extended family now.
My brother Charlie’s name was in the lottery tumbler for Vietnam–luckily his number never came up. But I remember fretting about it as images of that war crossed our black and white Zenith television. My generation has weathered the banks crisis and their bailout after they sold balloon mortgages on homes to unfortunate souls who had no idea their payments were going to rise sky high. We got wise to Bernie Madoff and his ponzi scheme where he convinced many folks, including friends, to invest all their savings with promises of magnificent returns. He took their money, like a lucky leprechaun, dancing all the way to the bank. He said he knew the “secret” to investing.
(I wonder if he found anything lavish about his jail cell.) My generation has learned that if something sounds too good to be true, it is absolutely a scam.
Many of our parents hoarded canned goods; squirreling away and freezing in-season fruit, using every package and plastic bag, or can lid that came their way. If my mom bought a jar of mayonnaise, that jar and lid became a part of her landscape forever. She’d find uses for it and maybe gift it to one of us filled with freshly picked blueberries.
Dad taught all his sons to hunt and a more bountiful harvest couldn’t have been had as all the venison got loaded into the freezer in the cellar. This long white freezer stood next to the low wooden cupboards with diamond-shaped wire fronts holding canned tomatoes, strawberries, blackberries, and carrots and just below clotheslines we used for hanging and drying clothes during the winter.
As kids we watched. We learned. We snickered. We groaned. We wondered why we couldn’t buy new school shoes every year like everybody else. Somewhere in the recesses of our memories though, we learned that it was important to save. We learned to pay off debts as soon as we could. We learned that going without for some number of years could eventually lead to a future of easier living when we might need it most. We learned that the best car to buy isn’t always a new car. We learned to be ok with hand me downs. We learned to lean on one another when we needed something. We learned to be thoughtful neighbors to those who might need a helping hand. We learned to save every chance we got.
Therefore, we learned to appreciate anything given for free, just as we learned to give freely to those less fortunate.
During this time of Corona Nervosa, my family is self quarantining. We are mostly staying home. We’re going to make a donation to the food pantry at the local church because the number of people needing to come through and receive free food will be rising as layoffs continue. We’re going to think of ways to cut expenses by installing more energy efficient lights and keeping lights off when nobody’s in the room, and we’ll pay attention to conserving water.
We’re going to think of our elderly neighbors and ask if they need anything when the time comes that we MUST venture out to the grocery store. I’m personally going to cope by reading books, working on my own book, quilting and spending time growing food, maybe even buy a couple of chickens again.
There will be a silver lining to all of this and now we have the time to sit back and figure out just what that might be.