I don’t know anyone who is not fearful about this nation’s economic plight these days. Since pension plans have mostly gone by the board, workers have invested their money in the stock market, thinking that they would retire, and they now wonder if and when they will. Those who are working wonder if their jobs will hold. Retailers and small businesses of all kinds face lean times, and many of them will close. Those who provide services of various kinds, from massage to house cleaning to car washes, will find that their customers cannot afford to come so often, or perhaps not at all. Restaurants will see empty tables more often. Recreational facilities, from state parks to ski resorts, will experience fewer visitors.
Yes, everyone is worried. But there are some among us who will be receiving the brunt of this economic crash, and they would be the 20% or so at the bottom of the economic scale–the ones who were working part-time because they could not find full-time jobs, and now the part-time job has been cut; the ones who are among the 30% of young people who drop out of high school; the workers who live so far out that they can’t commute to their low-paying jobs in the city; the families who were depending upon help from another family member who is now unable to provide it; the families who were healthy previously but could not afford health insurance and now have had a major illness or accident. These folks will be wondering how they will pay the rent and buy food, knowing that they can do one, but not the other.
So how to be thankful? Well, I would say that those of us who don’t have to worry about losing our home or where our next meal is coming from or how we’re going to pay the electric bill, I would say we have a lot to be thankful for, right there. If our basic needs are met, let us then understand that all the rest is really icing on the cake.
My family and I have decided not to give one another Christmas gifts this year, and to instead give that money where it might be better used. Personally, I’m giving my gift money to the Food Bank, because I know that that agency is desperate to meet the increasing demand, and I am distressed that families, including young children, might be hungry–at any time, but especially during the holiday season. Our Alternative Gift Mart at the church also suggests many other worthy alternatives.
I’m afraid greed has won the day, and the house of cards that has become our economic system is falling to the ground. With the wise leadership of our new President, I believe we will begin to build an economy that is responsive to all the people, not just the 1% at the top. But this building of a new economic system will take time and patience. Many will suffer, both in our country and in the rest of the world. Let us be mindful of those on the fringes, who will suffer the most. Let us understand that Love asks us to share the bounty of our lives, such as it is.