Let’s face it: 2011 tanked for legions of folks in the U.S.A.
High unemployment abounded. Savings accounts were depleted. Economic stagnation dominated.
2011 dashed hopes for many. And according to the pundits, 2012 appears to be more of the same.
But how does recession look at ground level?
I sit on a broken bench with a brick patio edging the pond. It’s a beautiful spring day in the South. A gentle breeze tickles the water’s surface.
Lovers stroll by, clasping hands and talking between smiles.
Swans skim along the surface in a vee-shaped line.
A duck gives instruction to her brace of ducklings. She quacks; they all peer at her. She dips her head under the water; they all dip their heads. I remember the dipping bird toy perched on a glass by a window in my dorm from 1968.
The breeze sends joyful screaming from across the pond. Kids run, jump, play in a jungle gym while parents stand around, smiling, talking.
So much joy makes me wonder: is this a depressed economy?
To my left, high schoolers pose in their prom outfits with the pond as background. Low-cut dresses to promenade with and short, puffy skirts meant to dance. White tuxes and black tuxes and ties of every color and pattern.
For some young smiles, prom will be their most shining moment in high school. Regardless, proud parents and grandparents shoot photos of their kids.
The brilliant sky sports white puffy clouds. The bricked patio, the laughing playground, the pond with quacking ducks : this is ground level.
Is this the look of a recession? Why does all of this seem so normal?
Because recession is a normal part of capitalism. It is a natural event in a cycle as regular as summer and winter.
In a culture that rewards novel ideas, hard work and innovation, a boom is an expected outcome from success.
And a recession follows to correct overblown growth.
Boom times and busts are cogs on a giant economic wheel. People benefit from the booms and get hurt during the busts. Sadly, those who benefit are not always those who later suffer loss.
We all remember the boom times. But, we always seem to forget the recessions until the next one is upon us.
And yet, Life seems to move along despite recessions.
Consider the ducks in the pond. The lovers strolling by. The kids going to prom and the proud parents taking their pictures.
Are they mixed up? Out of touch? Why aren’t they acting all mopey and sad? I mean, like, we’re in a recession!
The ducks and others are fine. What they have is what we need: they have perspective. They work around it.
Because there will be times when we shine, and our pockets are flush with cash.
And, there will be times when we are down on our luck, and the cupboard is nearly bare. Like mine is right now.
Dick Gregory grew up from poverty, but he turned his mother’s comment about that into a great essay on dignity. She said (and he wrote): “We ain’t poor, just broke.”
Broke doesn’t mean broken. Broke is kept in perspective when we realize that things’ll get better any day now. Broke is conquered by believing we can change our current condition.
And believing that we will succeed.
Broke is a great motivator to get working. I’m sitting on that very bench, but I’m working on my next great idea.
And you? Are you working on your next great idea?