During the Depression, when jobs for so many Northwest Indiana breadwinners were infrequent and temporary, much of life revolved around how to feed one’s family.
This, of course, was before the days of supermarkets and mega-retail establishments. For my grandfather living in Hammond, the content of meals for his family by and large came from small, neighborhood grocery stores.
When hungry neighbors were unable to pay for basic food needs, the grocer permitted them to buy on credit. Struggling but appreciative customers would make payments as they were able.
When my grandfather picked up temporary jobs, one of his first stops after payday was the neighborhood grocer to pay down his family tab.
It was a way of life and survival — one characterized by trust, faith, benevolence, obligation, assurance and a sense of doing what was right.
It also demanded partnerships of committed relationships between provider and recipient, business and customer, haves and have-nots and, ultimately, involving proud, hard-working people of all backgrounds.
Such partnerships provide me pause to consider what if Depression era-type life existed today? How all-in would we be to express trust, helpfulness, understanding, patience and a willingness to demonstrate benefit of the doubt to others?
Looking through the lenses of our 21st century society, I must admit I have concerns.
Very few, if any, days go by, it seems, that our societal landscape does not include stories that depict a self-centeredness/what’s-in-it-for-me attitude, reluctance to take responsibility, blame directed at others, and an unwillingness to compromise or be open-minded to views other than one’s own. And we wonder why we live amidst so much dysfunction.
If we have met the enemy, and the enemy is us, how do we fix the problem? I am no sociologist or political scientist, but I do have three brief suggestions of just 10 words:
- Do good.
- Check our egos at the door.
- Help others.
It’s not my plan here to pontificate on the virtues of the aforementioned except to offer that each relates to the others. And, conversely, if there’s a breakdown in one, the others also are left without a lifeline.
If we are preoccupied by doing what’s good and worthy, we also are preoccupied by avoiding what’s bad and unworthy. As for our egos, imagine how much we could accomplish if we don’t concern ourselves about who gets credit. And if we’re all about helping others, consider the many opportunities there are to feel gratified about our efforts, which — who knows — could even include a willingness to place the welfare and greater good of others ahead of our own individual rights and agenda.
Anything that moves us past priorities of accumulating personal prestige and clout, compromising public service for political gain, playing the blame game in lieu of taking the difficult if not unpopular road of responsibility, and being narrow-minded and uncooperative, would be a good first step.