Every year, a friend or family member gives me a personal calendar too exquisite to be written on. And so, on the first day of the year, I sit for hours admiring it and wind up putting it away because I can't bear to spoil it. This year is no exception. So, as usual I pick up the most inexpensive pocket-book size calendar I can find, and I'm back in business.
Actually, I like facing the new year with a bunch of blank pages. I like the idea of not having my life all planned out. For too many years, I could scratch out entire weeks, because I knew where I would be spending those days at some job or another. Nowadays, I mostly play it by ear.
Like other holidays, people have interesting ways of spending Jan. 1. One of my old aunts insisted on maintaining the ancient tradition of cooking black-eyed peas for good luck on the first day of the year. She was convinced that she was inviting disaster into her life if she didn't observe this tradition.
Others have replaced the custom of making resolutions with establishing goals they would like to attain in the upcoming year.
Finding and sticking with a diet is at the head of the list for some of my friends. Others promise themselves to quit smoking.
In view of the spreading recession, some of us are taking the opportunity to tighten our belts. We're looking over our budgets and trying to find ways of cutting back.
One thing I have been saying for years is that if no one ever makes another piece of clothing in America, most of us have enough items in our closets to last a lifetime.
I heard a woman say the other day that she thought a recession was good for the country. According to her way of thinking, most of us have gone way too far living above our means. She believes that we have abandoned common sense by doing such things as buying houses we can't possibly afford and enjoying a lifestyle that is over our heads. She is confident that we'll be better off if we cut up our credit cards and get back into the habit of putting a few dollars from our paychecks into the bank for the inevitable rainy days.
Personally, I have always lived a frugal lifestyle. With me, it's more a matter of upbringing than anything else. I have always been embarrassed whenever I've had to sleep in the homes of those who live extravagant lifestyles. Sometimes, I've actually found myself praying that I wouldn't die there. I tend to feel so guilty about homeless people and starving children that just living decently is all I've ever wanted.
Over the next few years, I would imagine that we will all have a lot of time to think about our excesses. We do things like waste food that our parents would never have tolerated. Most of us have stuff in our homes that we will never use and quite often have forgotten we ever owned. In fact, the more I think about it, over the next few months of this new year will be a great time for me, at least, to inventory my possessions and continue the paring down that I have been trying to do over the past year.
Another thing we need to do is determine what part of this burden we can share. I don't have an extra house to lend a family who is losing their home, but I do have extra food I can donate to a food pantry. My neighbor has extra time to donate, and so she volunteers to cook for a free lunch program. Another has agreed to baby-sit for a mother looking for a job.
We need to develop a recession mentality — an attitude that calls us to help each other. That is exactly how many of our parents and grandparents made it through the Great Depression.
None of this, of course, exonerates the corrupt government agencies that allowed the greedy to bring the economy down. We need to pay more attention to how businesses and corporations are allowed to function and what kind of regulations are needed to keep them honest. Now, even those who favor the free market system have come to their senses and realized that everybody needs to be monitored for their own good.
I would hope that through this financial crisis we will learn that not protesting when government gets out of control is a sure way of getting the entire country in trouble. Being a silent citizen is the same as exercising the right to be irresponsible.
It's a position we cannot afford. If we are to survive, we have to get it right. Let's profit from our past mistakes and move on, helping each other along the way. It's the only way to go.
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.