Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Great Depression

I am grateful today. 

In Sunday's Post-Gazette there is an op-ed piece titled Lessons from the Depression. In the article Ralph Couey makes the point that although everyone is talking about the current "tough economic times" and the need to cut back, no one is jumping to the forefront to sacrifice their own self interest.  Everyone it seems thinks that the burden should be borne by someone else.  Living above our means, has brought us to the brink of insolvency and sacrifices must be made.

My grandparents grew up during the Great Depression.  My grandmother was only 3 and my grandfather 11 in 1929 when the crash hit.  Sacrifice then was not a choice but essential for survival  My grandfather ran away and began hopping boxcars and living in hobo camps.  He learned to smoke, drink and fight and became a wanderer.  He traveled across the country and sought adventure.  When he returned home he had become an angry and violent man.  He had learned a trade though through his travels and he became a hard working, hard driving/drinking, railroad engineer. I still remember the gold watch B&O gave him when he retired with a chugging train on its face.  My Pap died in 1993 still a hard and bitter man.

At the same time, my grandmother and her siblings were given up and put in an orphanage to save them from starving.  Many children were given up by their  parents and became wards of the state, better known as court kids.  My great grandmother was able to keep two of her children but Gram wasn't one of them.  For her entire life she has not gotten over the betrayal of this abandonment.  My Gram is still alive.  She saves tinfoil, rubber bands, sandwich baggies.  She wastes nothing.  When she shops she buys just enough never more.  When she cooks there is only enough for a small meal.  She used to keep her money in a soup can in the kitchen cupboard.  She has not been able to shake the fear that things could go bad at any minute and that there will not be enough.  She has no peace and serenity because she lives in fear of the future, constantly trying to prepare herself for whatever bad thing might happen. 

I can live like this too, in fear, trying to control everything.  Today though I am able to see that I have always had enough.  Enough love, enough food, enough money, enough health.  And I hope that when and if the time comes for me to sacrifice I will be willing and not afraid.