I was reading an account recently of a number of middle class people who have lost their jobs in the past couple of years and who now live in very diminished circumstances from their prior lives. Some are living in the basements of relatives. Others are living in recreational vehicles. I think the design of the article was intended to shock us and induce the people reading into realizing how very bad the economy in the US really is, and on that point, I agree. I think the economy and outlook are actually worse than it has been at any time since The Great Depression.
However, I took something else away from the article as well. I am not my job. I am not my occupation, my degrees, or my income, my house, my neighborhood or my bank balance. I am a human being, a child of God, a wife, a mother. I was also a daughter and a sister. I am not a better person when I am making money, although I might be perceived to be a more powerful one. We must have the knowledge that we are good and decent people regardless of our present circumstances. Life is full of reversals of fortune, in both good and bad times. We need to know that we remain the same people throughout life's peaks and valleys.
I think that one of the problems we have in American culture right now, beside the economy is a pervasive fairy tale about what life really is. My parents grew up during WW II. They both worked hard for their educations, and held a variety of jobs before attaining the ones for which they were eventually known. They married later in life than I did, because the turmoil in the world at the time caused many to meet their spouses later than they might have otherwise. They did not marry until they were in their thirties. Their first child was not born until my mother was 36. They did not buy their first home until they were in their forties. They had experience and perspectives which allowed them to live frugally and well in bad times, and to live reasonably and to save in good ones.
The advertising on American television might have you believe that you go to school, have sex at the first opportunity, graduate, get a grant to a great college, have a wonderful grade point average there, and then are offered five positions the last year of college, months prior to graduation. That of course, is if you aren't first discovered by a producer who makes you a star after he saw you leaving the CVS pharmacy to buy a bottle of suntan oil. Absent from their equation is work and the number of failures at one thing or another that it takes to live a life. Learning a new job, losing a loved one, having a serious or chronic illness are all normal parts of life. Life is hard, for most of us. For those for whom it appears easy, the trials just have not yet become apparent. A lack of strife means that the person may not have the necessary life skills to navigate the trials of life when they arrive. And, they will arrive. They always do.
Remember that Jewell, the singer, lived in a car while she was playing first gigs between her life in Alaska and who she eventually became. Remember that as much as I dislike all that Barack Obama stands for, because we don't share his ideology, that he went from a foreign student in Indonesia as a child, to a person who made use of every educational opportunity and grant possible to become at attorney and to become president. Donald Trump has lost his fortune and declared bankruptcy a number of times, and this is why he has an understanding for those who find themselves in temporary dire straits. He kept going, and made a fortune back again and again. I remember Eric Cantor well as a young husband and father who has built a home on speculation and was doing his best to sell it to us. Unfortunately, that particular brick house with blue trim, and all wood floors, was just beyond the price we could afford. He paid the construction mortgage on it for a few more months until someone else bought it. The young husband who was trying to maintain a family nest egg went on to continue to be an attorney, and now a Congressman of some note.
You are not what you do. You are however, the person you make yourself. Your role in the world could be as the inventor of the next best great thing, or you could be the mother or the grandmother or influential supportive friend of the person who develops the next great thing. Remember that whether you are rich or poor, on the top or the bottom today that the ripple you cast with your words and your work stretches far and wide and influences people for good or sometimes for bad. In that sense, we are all powerful. What is important is that regardless of your present circumstances, that you stay honest, decent, and that you speak the truth, even when others around you are massaging it for personal gain.
Money will come and go. It is fleeting, and it doesn't travel to Heaven, at all. Chase what is bright and good and is experiential. Keep a good heart, because all we will carry beyond this Earth, is what we house within it.