Trying economic times can bring families closer

Monday, February 16, 2009 | 10:00 a.m. CST

Last year I inherited a book which was written by Thelma Allen, a woman who was seeking to preserve her pre-Depression through World War II recipes and memoirs for posterity. This may not mean much to some, but it is an endeavor which I value highly.

I think it is important that when we experience unusual circumstances or encounter uncommon situations that we record them because we never know when someone we know will find themselves caught up in a similar situation. Personally, I have seen it happen time and again. The woman’s intention was to create a historical record of a time and place in history that she believed would one day be forgotten.

And in a real sense we have arrived at that place again. Millions are out of work and thousands have lost their homes. Those of us who are waiting for the last shoe to drop are wondering what we can do to make things better.

The one thing, I think we all have the opportunity to do is to try to bring our families together. That is the most important message I received from my explorations into the past disaster. Whatever the worst is that we have to bear, it can be borne more easily with the love and support of family on hand to help us through.

When I think back into my own childhood memories, I know for sure that the grim realities of my early life, such as grave illnesses and deaths of family members, were easier endured because they were shared heartaches and not carried alone.

In earlier times families did most things together. They could count on each other for help and encouragement. Long before support groups, families were the people you went to for advice.

It seems to me that we are more isolated as individuals than at any other time in my memories. I encounter people every day who are alienated from their families and only see them at Thanksgiving or Christmas and seldom talk to them on the telephone.

Facing unemployment or foreclosure, one can easily become overwhelmingly depressed. Having the support of family can make a real difference in helping one overcome despair.

Developing a survival plan will also go a long way in helping families to adjust to leaner times. I have friends who are already planning gardens for the spring in order to have fresh vegetables that they can freeze or can for the winter. Others have agreed to buy portions of beef and pork from nearby farmers for next year’s meat. Many people are gathering old cookbooks searching for inexpensive foods they can learn to prepare.

As we make plans for the long haul, people should not forget to have a good supply of spiritual nourishment on hand. When down times come to visit, we need to have good books and pleasant attitudes not only to sustain our own well-being but that of our family and friends. Keep a stock of greeting cards in your stationery box or send e-mails to let those you care about know that they are on your mind.

If one happens to live in an area where public schools are amenable to adjusting to changing times, these institutions can be a big help to communities undergoing hard times. Teaching children how to budget their money and contribute to the family’s survival plan is a service that can be extremely beneficial during times of stress.

Some families are also changing their traditions to make time for members to share their concerns. Some are incorporating an evening for the family to come together for a meal,to play games or just enjoy each other’s company. These may sound like simple things, but when people are facing life-changing issues suddenly, having a sympathetic individual to talk to can mean a lot.

Advances in technologies have made many of the things in Mrs. Allen’s memoirs things of the past. Most of the housework that figured into family life of the 1930s has been relieved by inventions such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Nothing, however, can replace the love and caring of engaged family members.

Touching bases with times gone by reminds a person of how resilient we can become when things go wrong. People truly can pick themselves up when life has knocked them down. We all need to remember that from time to time.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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