And so….it’s Christmas time.
Lately I’ve been occupying a portion of free-time on the weekends, sifting through my treasure-trove of pre-recorded (or purchased) holiday programming for seasonal viewing. One I pulled out just this past weekend was “The Homecoming”, which was originally shown on CBS in December of 1971.
This tale is set during the depression.
“Downturn” wasn’t a word they used back then.
Times were alot tougher than our “tough times”.
It was an odd feeling watching the show, listening to “John Boy” and “Mama” speak of the “hard times” they were facing. We simply don’t know how good we have it now. Those folks knew what it was like to suffer. I realize that Hollywood takes dramatic “license” now and then, but, this show was based on a true-life events written by famed author Earl Hamner Jr, who witnessed those times first hand, and actually lived through what I was merely watching on TV, at a safe distance, in a warm house, with hot cocoa at my side.
The bond shared by everyone back then was: suffering.
More people were suffering, on some level, all at the same time, than we probably care to think about these days, when we have the potential to “suffer” as they did, but more than likely will not. The funny thing is, in suffering together, they developed a common bond. They learned to “make do”, and help others “make do” too.
Could we do that today?
Oh I realize that in small towns and small communities, this kind of thing goes on all the time…this suffering and sacrificing. But, on a larger scale, could the narcissistic society we’ve come to know and scoff at really learn to “make do”…without their Blackberries? Their Ipods? Their “On Star”? Their “Starbucks”?
I tend to think they could, but only if forced to do so, and only then because most of us have ancestors who suffered, sacrificed and “made do” back in the real-life depression-era times of the fictional “Walton’s Mountain”. I still have a set of ration stamps my great grandmother used, and I was raised on the tales of my own family’s “hard times” during those “hard times”. And as I myself was growing up, we didn’t have much money either, so, the “make do” lessons learned from all those years ago were still in practice then. For the most part anyway.
But, what that taught me was that I CAN suffer, sacrifice and make do when necessary. I CAN do without, and be all the better for it when times actually do get better. Unlike some kids I went to school with, I wasn’t shielded from the depression-era stories my family would tell. No…instead, I was raised in the shadow of those tales, in order to teach me just how good we have things now, and how bad things can really get if we don’t keep the lessons of that era in our minds.
As I watched “The Homecoming”, I thought to myself….It would be hell, but I think there are a great number of people who could learn a thing or two from a little suffering…a little sacrificing…a little “making do”. In order to learn appreciation for a thing you CAN live without, one must first learn what it’s like NOT to be able to afford that thing just because there is a “want” for that thing. After all, these days, when someone wants something they could really do without, they whip out the plastic and buy it. That just wasn’t done back in those days, and I think that’s a lesson that should be learned, first-hand, once again.
Even though those people were suffering back then, they were still thriving, in spirit. Those folks knew they were in the thick of the “hard times”, and that it wouldn’t end anytime soon. It seemed to make them less anxious about things they didn’t necessarily need, and couldn’t afford, but would someday like to have. They did what they had to do to get by, and in doing so, they learned about what really matters in day-to-day life, and how those things cannot be lost in financial hard times. They learned what they could count on, and how to count their blessings. They learned to be resolute…damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!
I don’t think we know how to do that these days, and it’s sad. If people really thought about all the things they have that they could do without, and realized they have within themselves the strength to weather times like these…I dare say there wouldn’t be so much griping going on now, and people would be more appreciative for the intangible “blessings” in their lives. Those things that don’t cost a dime, but are worth their weight in gold.
Just as the lessons learned from suffering, sacrificing and “making do”.
The next time you reach for a shiny new thing, ask yourself…”do I really need it”? If you THINK you do, but you really don’t, put it back on the shelf and do a bit of soul-searching.
Have the courage to put yourself through a little suffering…just once. You just might learn something, and be all the better for it.