As the fear on Wall Street panics every holder of American stocks, here is a lesson from the Great Depression: Our grandparents weren’t left behind by their community, family or friends.
If the stock market crashes and inflation rises at the speed of light, things we’ve been taught to depend on in recent years will turn out to have been nothing to depend on at all.
The real source of wealth for people in the Great Depression were their communities, family and friends.
My mother came from a very poor family. She tells stories about sleeping on an old ironing board on the floor when she was little, bundled in blankets, to make room for “relatives” just arriving from the old country. Later, when her father died, she slept with her mother in a single bed.
Her father, Samuel Koretzsky, was one of the first in their family to come to the United States and was instrumental in supporting his entire village to immigrate as well. Dozens of families depended on Samuel and his family when they first arrived in this country. And when my mother’s father died, all those people banded together to help her mother — a courageous illiterate woman with five children — open a small deli and dry goods store.
Everyone in the family worked in the store– there was no money to hire help! And the local townspeople frequented it. When the oldest children found better paying jobs they gave every penny they had back to their mother to help the family as a whole. They pulled together. They made it work out. And immigrant families do this to this day.
We’ve lost track of community in our society as a whole. But the truth is that if everyone believed they were in this situation together — and everyone, rich and poor, pooled their resources together and helped each other out — there isn’t any true economic “crisis” to be concerned about. So what if the “me first” economy falls by the wayside? When making a killing in the real estate market is deemed much more important than requiring that every man, woman and child in this country has an affordable place to live and a dependable way to pay for it, it’s time to rethink the values our economy has been running on anyway.
When things go wrong you have to depend on family and friends — not in a dependent way but in a mutually dependent arrangement. Everyone helps out as best they can and everyone has value, even the old, disabled, mentally incapacitated, and young ones our society tends to forget about.
In most families during the Great Depression elderly people stayed with the babies. Older children tended the garden and did the chores. Everyone pooled their resources. If a loved one needed a place to live, space was made for a mattress on the floor. Everyone had value and nobody was left behind.
Sheryl Karas M.A. has a joint spiritual counseling and healing practice with her partner Paul Hood, working in-person in Santa Cruz, CA and via telephone nationally and internationally. She has a Masters degree in Transpersonal Psychology and is the author of three books: The Solstice Evergreen, The Spiritual Journey of Family Caregiving, and Changing the World One Relationship at a Time. Visit their website at www.healingcommunication.com .
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