Friday, October 17, 2008


Gracious what a roller coaster ride our economy has become. This past week conversations and news headlines have been on little else. There are dramatic national and international concerns, yes, but also a lot of very personal individual concerns.

A recently single parent who can no longer afford the house payment after her ex lost his job and can't contribute his monthly child support amount, but also can't sell the family home because there are so many houses on the market and no one is buying.

A widow whose investment income she lives on along with social security has lost 37% of its value over the past few months.

A couple whose income has suddenly disappeared because past clients aren't paying their bills and new clients are cancelling or postponing plans to use their services.

A middle-aged man with a chronic illness who worries about whether he'll be able to continue to afford the medication that keeps him going.

One way or another most of us have growing concerns. We're sensing the economic difficulties that we, our communities, our country, and the world market are facing are not temporary aberrations that will be passing soon. I know I am. I believe fundamental changes are taking place throughout the world that will mean things aren’t going to be the same today or tomorrow as they have been in our recent past. Just what that future will look like isn’t clear, only that won’t be what we’re used to.

But that doesn’t need be reason for despair. Our well-being doesn’t have to depend on keeping things as they have been. In fact, our well-being will depend on recognizing that things are changing and that we can change with them. In other words, as author Bertha Calloway is widely quoted to have said, "While we cannot direct the wind, we can adjust the sails."

Yes, we can adjust the sails, our sails. We can adjust how we live so we’re not so vulnerable to unpredictable economic ups and downs and so we’re not using up or destroying our vital natural resources and ecosystems. In her book Depletion and Abundance Sharon Astyk explains what that means to her and why it gives her hope:

"When I realized that everything was going to change, I was at first afraid. Because I thought, if my government or public policy or other choices weren't going to fix everything, what could I possibly do? What hope was there, if I had to take care of myself, if my community had to take care of itself?

But when I began looking for solutions that could be applied on the level of ordinary human lives, that involved changes in perspectives and pulling together, the reclamation of abandoned ideas and the restoration of strong communities, I began to feel hopeful, even excited. Because I realized that when large institutions cease to be powerful, sometimes that means that people start being powerful again."

I agree we can be hopeful. We are far more powerful and resourceful than we acknowledge, especially when we join with others within strong and close communities to find solutions that suit the reality of our finite yet abundant world.

We shouldn't look for some blanket solution, though, that someone else can pass along. As philosopher Viktor Frankl once said to me, "We must find our way." We must search for solutions because those that will sustain us will be different for each of us and for each of our communities.

In the process be we near or far, however, we can most certainly support, care for, and support one another along the way.

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