"Life is difficult." This terse sentence leads off M. Scott Peck's book, The Road Less Traveled. Of course, sometimes life is more difficult than others. I recently read an essay about the Great Depression. One story went like this. A little girl was falling asleep in class because she was hungry. Her teacher urged her to go home and get something to eat. She said, "I can't. This is my sister's day to eat."*
We, as a people, have a tendency to expect others to provide for us. For example, how many expect others to grow and truck food to our neighborhood. I know I do. It's a system that has been working well and we've come to take it for granted. Lately, however, many are not so sure. You can read a lot on the internet about people preparing for hard times, for the crash of the dollar, for living a lifestyle suddenly reduced to necessity.
This may not happen. It may not happen starkly for everyone. Life may not always be difficult. But worrying about a deep depression makes life difficult right now, today. How are we to weather this worry and continue to be civilized, to get along with others, to be kind, to be patient with children? Here are some of the thoughts that keep me sane, hopeful, and happy.
1) Hard times tend to bring out the best in people. Sharing trouble becomes a community bond and a way to get to know one another. That bond expands the heart and heals us from present separations.
2) An economic downturn, a devaluation of the American dollar, may be the only way to keep our planet. Things that we have been reluctant to face such as alternative energy sources will become do-able when they are the only way. Habits we know we should overcome-using disposable plastic bags, for example-will be easy to drop when the factories that make plastic bags are no longer operative. While we are working out alternatives, the earth and its wild inhabitants can begin to recover. The atmosphere will become less toxic to trees and these will survive to provide the oxygen we need.
3) Don't be afraid of change. If is often true that what we fear is what we need. We can think that we don't want to change our way of living, and we can fear for our survival and comfort in the years to come, but we know we are walking on weak boards right now, dependent upon a giant grid of services to provide our food and clothing and most of the things we use. When we get past the changes, a wave of relief will follow. The devaluation of the dollar may well be earth's salvation and ours.
4) Adversity makes one strong. Living in the luxury of central heating and the take-out counter at my health food store, I've become soft. If some of these services are interrupted, having to find ways to keep warm and eat nourishing food, as an individual and as a community, will make us more able, more sure of our own abilities.
5) A friend of mine once said he had realized that a faucet he was trying to turn would not respond to being kicked, only to pressure applied correctly. In other words, dramatizing frustration gets us nowhere and we may as well save our energies for what works. This is a lesson often lost in soft times, learned in good hard times.
6) Our family, friends, and neighbors are counting on us to keep our heads and be kind while we all steady the scene. We could say that if hell is where people get upset and abuse one another, heaven is where no amount of trouble can trigger abuse. The issue will be whether we can trust one another to work as a team and get things done with the minimum of blaming, grumping, yelling, crying, sulking, and hiding.
7) For me, the ultimate test of character is to treat children with kindness at all times, including when we are stressed. Little ones are helpless in the face of our moods. Let us give them a face they can trust. We can include them in helping to solve problems and acknowledge the contribution they make. We can show them how to face trouble and how to experience joy in yet another day met with courage, strength, and a peaceful heart.
Our lives in the future may well be far more satisfying than what we now think of as good lives. They will surely be less stressful. Great benefits of peace and hope come from knowing that our planet will survive to host us "unto the seventh generation,' and from the abilities we acquire while making it so.
*"Depression" by William Manchester, included in Forging the American Character, Volume II, Readings in United States History Since 1865, edited by John R. M. Wilson
Author: Patricia Lapidus
Article by Patricia Lapidus, author of the memoir SWEET POTATO SUPPERS: A Yankee Woman Finds Salvation in a Hippie Village. Patricia is a writer, editor, teacher, and an encourager. Other books include SWAMP WALKING WOMAN, a mythic fairy tale about women's strength, and GIDEON'S RIVER, a novel dedicated to all who live with a temper, their own or someone else's. Note: SWEET POTATO SUPPERS is out now in a second edition with pictures from the 1970s that were not available for the first edition. This memoir is for those interested in communities, in spiritual hippies, in survival and relationshi
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