In one of my past careers years ago, I worked for a small company which also employed a delightful retired gentleman. He worked as a courier, making deliveries and pick-ups between our two stores and various local vendors and customers. In his working life, he had been a barber, and even well into his eighties his hands were rock-steady; out of love and friendship, he treated my bosses to free haircuts.
John had been around for most of the 20th century– born during World War I, came of age during the Great Depression, and served in World War II. I always respected his wisdom, as crude as it might sometimes be.
Like many people who lived through the Great Depression, John had a very conservative attitude towards finances. He always deplored wastefulness, valued self-reliance, and saved every penny he could. John saw his beloved nation slipping out of control with greed and consumerism. He often told me that America badly needed a serious wake-up call:
“Sweetheart, what this country needs is another Great Depression. It’ll teach people how to live right.”
While I certainly hope things don’t ever get that bad again, I have to acknowledge the truth in his commentary. Many people do change their habits when times get tough. In the past few months, as our economy has gone into a recession, the lifestyle climate has definitely changed. Frugality, thrift, and self-sufficiency are definitely becoming hot topics these days.
I have to wonder, though: will a shift towards frugality last, or will it just be a temporary response to the economy? Will the scars need to cut as deeply into our consciousness as a full-blown Depression in order to create lasting change? Do we even want that?
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