Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fwd: On Dealing With Hard Times

And another Burning Bush ignites!

I spent most of this weekend writing (and ranting) about my personal fears (in my journal) and my political expectations (here). This afternoon, I picked up my copy of Sue Bender's Everyday Sacred, which is sort of loosely my text for Lent this year. My bookmark was on page 123, a section titled "Why Waste Time Being Unhappy?" It is only a couple of paragraphs recounting something wonderful that happened to a lady after her house burned down.

The point of the segment is that in the wake of a disaster, a person has two choices: she can make like a hedgehog, curling up in fear and misery, or move on with life. When bad things happen, I can self-identify as a Victim and be fearful, bitter, angry and/or a whole host of other negative and self-destructive emotions. Or, I can pick up the pieces and rebuild my life.

That plucked a resonant chord and made me realize that the people I have known in my life who were the best models of gratitude, grace and strength have been people who have been through some very hard times, including the Depression, WWII, and/or serious personal problems. Often all of those things.

One of my favorite older ladies in the church used to talk often about her experiences as a child during the Depression. Her stories made me cringe, but she ended each tale with an rather amazed grin on her face, shaking her head and declaring, "But, you know, we didn't even know we were poor because everybody was in the same boat!"

I've heard my mother say similar things, although my mother knew she was poor. She grew up in a world where everybody went without shoes most of the year and skipped meals a few times a week. They knew they were poor, but so was everybody else. She, too, shared that sense of "we're all in this together."

These things resonate with me today because the economic situation we face in our country is, I fear, similarly cataclysmic. We have been so prosperous for so long, moving into a downturn is going to be very hard for us. We have more to lose than a lot of the people did going into the Depression. A lot of us Baby Boomers have relatively little experience with hardship. We are in for a rude awakening, I fear.

To make matters worse, we have a lot more information about the outer world. I'm sure my mother's family didn't know that there were millionaires in America who actually profited from the Depression. She really did believe (and still does believe) that everybody suffered through that experience more or less equally.

Today we know when others are profiting from our misery. We see it on the nightly news or on any one of thousands of websites. We are not likely to have that sense of "we are all in the same boat" the Depression survivors felt. That is not a good thing.

However, for me the potential grace in this reflection is a reminder of the truth of the proverb that "strength comes out of adversity."

Or, perhaps we could put it in a positive way, "Why waste time being unhappy?"

For my part, I intend to continue on my Lenten quest for Burning Bushes, which seem to crop up with amazing frequency whenever I look for them.

I will also look for those small, sweet moments, which are also epiphanies. [On which, see here from Peace Bang via Satchel Pooch.]

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