Photo by Ellen Blanchette: Â Cypress and Lily Pond
Chanticleer Gardens,Â Wayne PA,Â May 15, 2008
Reading about how the financial crisis keeps spreading ever outward, into the far reaches of the globe, makes me sad for all those who struggle yet somehow separate from it all. While thousands of people (or is it millions?) worry over the loss of everything, their homes, stock portfolios (I do have art portfolios, does that count?) now hedge funds whatever they are, I sit quietly in the eye of the storm with not a single thing changed in my life. That is because I have nothing and therefore nothing to lose.
I do have a safe warm place to live. I have food in my cupboard and in my refrigerator even if it is tiny and I keep hitting my head on the freezer door when I get up from looking inside. I have clothes, shoes, I do need a winter coat but no worry, my credit is intact. Â In this upside down economy, as long as you pay your bills you are a good bet but if you own a house that once was worth $500,000 and now is worth only $300,000 you are up a creek. How does that make any sense?
The thing is that people in this country who are used to having a lot of stuff donâ€™t know how to live without. They donâ€™t know what I know, that in America, if you lose your job after working hard all your life, you should not starve or freeze. Unlike those people in China that I saw last week on TV, standing outside a factory that used to make stuff for Mattel, who had just lost their jobs and now were worried about being able to buy food for their children, in America we look out for our own. There are unemployment benefits, food stamps, help to get you through. There is a safety net. Â And if you are elderly, there is Social Security to make sure you don’t suffer in your “golden years.” You donâ€™t need a big house with solid gold bathroom faucets (Kenny Rogers once showed off his on some TV show years ago and I never forgot it.) You donâ€™t need 10 bedrooms. You donâ€™t need a big lawn or a lily pond although they are really nice. You need a roof over your head and food in your belly and some clothes to keep you warm. After that, itâ€™s all gravy. And you know, gravy is fattening and may make you slow and lazy. Thereâ€™s more to life than gravy.
There was a song years ago, The Best Things In Life Are Free. If you doubt that, go for a walk, look up at the sky, listen to the birds sing, watch the ducks play in the lake, or the seagulls fly over the ocean, watch some dogs play or some squirrels hunt for acorns in the grass and think about what it takes to live in this world and what makes you happy. I find when Iâ€™m doing something useful I feel better and when I worked for people whose only purpose in life was to make more money for themselves and other rich people who had more money than they knew what to do with I wasnâ€™t happy at all. Our financial world is upside down because our values are upside down. A lot of people already know that. More will be learning the lesson now. Maybe in the end thatâ€™s a good thing.