My mom was a child during World War I, saw her family fall apart after her papa made a poor investment, and got married and was raising kids during the Great Depression. All those things shaped her attitudes about money and security, and she expected difficult times. She saved for when the money wouldn’t be there, and she made it stretch . . . even when she didn’t have to.
I grew up in the 1950s and 60s. Moma made sure we had the material goods, and encouraged me to learn to take care of myself. There were hard times, but they didn’t hinge on money — these were emotional and mental. Moma didn’t have answers for them, so I had to find my own.
I’ve talked with other people about their hard times, and it varies. One relative remembered World War II vividly, and cringed whenever fireworks went off because of the memories. But she said she didn’t realize how dysfunctional her family was when she was a kid, because that was all she knew. And making do without was made easier, because everyone she knew was “making do.”
Difficult times are rarely fun, unless we have relatives or friends who can help us keep a sense of humor and adventure. It is a cliché that hard times make us stronger, but it is true. The trick is to make sure that strength doesn’t turn into heavy armor that inhibits our ability to feel, and to experience joy. Also not to let that strength warp us, so it becomes a hindrance. My mom’s thrift insured she would have income as she got older, but she wouldn’t spend it on herself when she needed it. My experiences as a kid mean I protect myself emotionally, but too often I’ve been afraid to let people in.
Right now the economy is pretty rocky; everyone thinks they have the right plan to fix things, but it will take many of us working together. It will take compromise and negotiation. Let’s remember there are different kinds of “hard times,” and the economy is only one. There will be situations where we need to take care of ourselves first, but don’t let that stop us from reaching out to help others when we can — whether it is on an emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical basis.