Old School

My father in law has been in my thoughts lately.  Born in 1903, he came of age during the Great Depression, and that event shaped his character.  He repeatedly told the story of going to his bank in Chicago one morning to find the doors locked and a sign saying “Out of Business”  on the window.  His life savings completely gone, hopes of buying back his family farm disappeared.  His life and his outlook were forever changed.  He became pessimistic, fearful, and unable to enjoy anything.  He never trusted banks again, and took to hiding large sums of cash in strange places -we’ve found money wrapped in tinfoil and hidden under the ceiling tiles in the basement.

Although he wasn’t formally educated, having left school in the eighth grade, he was a deep thinker on many levels.  But his extreme conservatism, both politically and religiously, made for some very unpleasant dinner table conversation.  Truthfully, he most often made all of us miserable with his bombastic approach and hard core didacticism.  So, as is the way of youth, we generally discounted everything he said simply because of the way he said it. 

But I’ve been thinking about some of the “predictions” he made as far back as the 1980’s…that globalization would be the “death of America,” that the media would one day “control the country,” that a world currency would be “disastrous,” and credit was “evil.”  That banks and financial institutions, particularly the stock market, were “not to be trusted.”


I’m rather glad he’s not here right now, because I’m quite sure he’d be saying “I told you so”  – over and over.

In the past couple of decades it seems we’ve all been focused on the future- on advancing technology, global entrepreneurship, and increasing personal wealth – that perhaps we’ve forgotten the lessons of the past.  We need to correct the excesses that have led us to this point – we need to return to values of honest work for decent pay, and we must return jobs to America so our citizens may reap the benefits of their labor

But just as importantly, we must overcome our feelings of fear and helplessness and look for practical ways to improve this situation.  It feels to me right now as if the world is collectively frozen like the proverbial deer in the headlights, standing stock still and helpless, not knowing which way to turn.  I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to jump back from the road into the relative safety of the woods while I reconnoiter and make a new plan of action. 

Although it probably wouldn’t hurt to take some cash and hide it in the ceiling.

What do you think?  Has your action plan changed?  Any ideas for things the average American can do to help alleviate the current situation?


7 thoughts on “Old School

  1. Our action plan is in the midst of changing. I like many of the ideas of Suze Orman.

    I’m also trying not to panic, restrict spending but not completely end it, and support local businesses whenever possible.

  2. One day at a time … support local businesses … plant a veggie garden, you’ll be much healthier for it … go as green as you can … learn new skills so that you can take care of yourself or take on a new job … meditate … laugh a lot, even if you feel like crying!

  3. We’re definitely holding off on making any major purchases these days; making do is more our mantra. Buying local has become a big thing with me as well; I’m even slowing down on my amazon.com habit and trying to wait until I can get into town to shop at Shaman Drum.

  4. I think we all need to be more realistic about what we “want” vs. what we “need.” I used to like looking at the ads that come in the Sunday paper. Now I just toss them. I think there is nothing I must buy right now.

  5. It’s difficult to know what to do. Many of us are bewildered. Should we save every penny? Should we do a bit of shopping to help stimulate the economy? I don’t know. I agree with everything said here. Buy local, plant a garden, learn new skills. I would only add one more. Cling to one another. Dig deep everyday to recall what truly matters. We may be moving toward a much bigger change than we can imagine, and if we can realize that we’re all in it together, it will be easier to cope. Oh, and put your money in a coffee can.

  6. We’re trying to pay down credit card debt and hold off on big purchases. We are both grateful for our employment and haven’t resorted to hiding money in the ceiling, but I can understand if you had been through what your dad experienced, it would change your perspective drastically.

    I hope the stimulus bill passes (with changes) … it is disheartening to hear about the “extras” that have been put in to it. We need a clean, economically sound stimulus that will instill hope back into the economy.


  7. My action plan has changed. I’m not buying major things and indeed, even trips to the grocery store have me looking more at sales than “what sounds good for dinner.” I suspect my garden this year will have more things from seed and fewer from starters, and I am being far more careful about buying books and magazines and looking at either what I already have or the library/second hand. The same for yarn and art supplies — one of my big expenditures! Fewer dinners out, I think. Now and then, for fun. It’s still a little too cold to walk or ride the bike more, but I see that in my future, and I suspect summer roadtrips may be planned to allow for more days but fewer round trips. I’m trying to pay down and not spend, protect myself “just in case.” And in some ways, it’s a good thing.

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