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In economic downturns and upturns, we can share and care

For many of us, the “economic downturn” has  personal ramifications.  One or more family members have lost jobs, and we wonder how we will manage.  How can we support them?  How bad will the times become?  How long will it be?

There have been other economic downturns, and we have plowed on through.  We have perhaps had our own personal downturns, while others were doing well.

From images of the Great Depression, I have the impression of a bleak, gray time.  What we’re living is in color, unlike the black-and-white, aged and faded films and photos that give glimpses into that time.  I see that photos and films of my young years in the 1950s and 1960s now have that aged, faded, old-time feel, in contrast to my technicolor experiences then.

Another image I have of the Great Depression is long lines:  People waiting for jobs.  People waiting for food.  People waiting and waiting.  People hopeless, isolated, abandoned, depressed and waiting.

There were also people actively working and striving, doing whatever they could to support themselves and their families, setting aside dreamed of careers just to survive.  There were also stories of good deeds and frugal living that helped people survive.  My parents pinched pennies, turned out lights, saved for a rainy day and lived lives committed to serving and helping others.

The Fig Tree shares such stories through our economic upturns and downturns.  There are always people caring and sharing.  There are always people seeking solutions through programs and policies.  There are always people ready to be hopeful and persistent.

Retailers were on edge about year-end sales.  They always wonder or worry whether they will have enough of an “increase.” The Christmas Bureau surpassed its goal.  Congregations and nonprofits have been on edge about increases in need, hoping enough money will come in to support their budgets and meet needs of those hit by the downturn.

Is the worry this year different?  What media spin?  The skyrocketing oil prices that lined some pockets are declining.  Some fear deflation.  Is that bad if people earn less?  Some prices continue to rise.

It’s in everyone’s self-interest for everyone to share the burden a bit.  Then the downturn won’t snuff out the livelihoods of more.  If that happens fewer will be able to buy goods and services to fuel an upturn.

Why would corporate executives be blind to that economic reality?  Why would any take bonuses, leaving others to suffer in the cold?  Why would any faith or nonprofit leader mimic that model?  Why did it happen to me?  Why?  Why?

In asking, we may turn our frustration outward or inward, blaming others or blaming ourselves.  That may fuel just our hopelessness and personal depressions when we need to try, try again. 

Will we slam the door on faith or open it to build resilience—a word woven through several stories in this issue.

Moving forward, putting one foot ahead of another may seem tedious, but we must persist.  Moving together, being with friends and family may seem difficult, but it restores identity and vision.  Standing up is possible when we can see a few steps ahead and when we know we’re not alone.

How will we reach out as individuals and congregations in these times?  How will we move from hand wringing to extending a hand, even if that is all we have to offer?  How will we be open to faith in these uncertain times?

We need hope, not false hope.  We need inspiration, not empty words.  We need vision, not packaged ideologies.  We need new leadership, new directions, new approaches, new opportunities and renewed communities as we begin a new year and a new U.S. Administration and new times.  May God be in our midst, guiding us.

Mary Stamp - Editor


Copyright © January 2009 - The Fig Tree