Everyone is fretting about the economy! That means everyone! Having just returned from an eight week speaking tour which included Los Angeles, Saskatoon, Canada, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Bali, Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur we have realized that not only are families the same in their worries about discipline, teaching responsibility and setting up a family infrastructure, but they are also all worried about the global economy! Their economies reflect our American economy and concerns about slow downs, lay-offs and imploding economies are everywhere. Probably the least worried families are those in Malaysia. In a newspaper article the day before we left Kuala Lumpur, we read that families there save about 35% of their earnings. Therefore, they have something to fall back on in hard times although they expected that a bad economy would hit them in time as well. They were more worried about Americans than they were for themselves. This article claimed that the average American family not only doesn’t have savings, they are “in the hole” in credit card debt!
We might say to ourselves “What a terrible time for a sudden freefall in the economy…just as we plunge into the holidays. On the other hand, maybe this is just the wake-up call we need to pull ourselves up and help us to realize what is really important! Of course job security is huge and in the case of actually losing a job and struggling to get by until another job is secured is no fun. Two of our sons live in Manhattan; they are seeing their neighbors and friends who had been working for big Banks and on Wall Street moving out of the city to look for new opportunities. But it’s hard to sell their homes and impossible to buy a home without some liquid cash. Millions are between a rock and a hard place in this wild economy!
While in Bangkok we were delighted to be there for a national holiday that involves making or buying small boats made from banana leaves and decorated with offerings of flowers, rice and candles (most were about the size of a large bowl). Every family, sometimes every family member, lights the candles and sends their boats down the river after dark. It was a spectacular sight as those little lighted boats drifted down the river by the thousands. Sending the little boats down the river symbolizes sending their sins down the river and starting a clean slate for the coming year. Our friends there smiled as they suggested that a lot of big U.S. bankers would love to be sending their sins down the river as well.
Though we wouldn’t wish for hard times, there are inescapable good things that come from those struggles. Having our kids shorten their Christmas lists and cutting back on unnecessary luxuries may be just the wake up call we need to help us think about what is really important. The memories of our fondest Christmases were those we asked the kids to make their gifts for family members with materials that cost no more than five dollars. What they came up with was amazingly creative…everything from an incredibly intricate cardboard car to slabs of wood hand-carved with a favorite statement of love.
Changing our paradigms during this season a wildly unsure economy might just teach us some lessons that we will always remember and value more than we may realize right at the moment!
It is a perfect time to become a bit philosophical and re-visit some of our favorite quotes:
The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not our circumstances. Martha Washington
The most important work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home.
Harold B. Lee
Those who laugh….last.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved piece, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming WOW WHAT A RIDE!
No matter what our circumstances, this holiday season will be one that none of us will ever forget. For better or for the worse, may we all use this “wake up call” to create something memorable….and even momentous!