Hard times can bring out the best in people

Falling stock markets and bank closings cast long and ominous shadows over the business landscape. Layoffs and budget cuts at the state level send tremors through the entire state infrastructure. Is this a disaster or a wake up call?

It is probably a bit of both. We are in for some hard times again, but we will probably come out stronger if we can learn from this experience.

On a personal level, our family is cutting back on all non-essential expenditures and we are reaching out to others to see if we can help each other through these coming months. We don’t have any idea of how far this will go before there is a turnaround, but we are doing our best to keep our morale up and do the same for others.

I grew up during the Great Depression of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Times were hard and there was a constant worry about where to find income and how to make ends meet. The main thing I remember was that my father and his brother and every able bodied member of the family found odd jobs to bring in income and feed the family. They taught themselves to hang wall paper and to do carpentry and whatever people needed and would pay for.

I also remember that the extended family would gather together almost every weekend for potluck dinners. There was a lot of sharing resources and even housing when someone was unable to find work. We lived in the rural parts of western Massachusetts, a couple of hours away from the nearest city.

Now we live in Floyd, Virginia, a rural community near the Blue Ridge Parkway, where most of the inhabitants have a wide range of skills and often have two or more jobs, even in the best of times. A severe recession can cut tourist traffic to a trickle thus accentuating the economic pinch on local businesses as local consumer confidence  and income ebbs.

The businesses and individuals that survive economic downturns are those that keep their wits and continue to find what people need and want and work out a fair exchange for those things.

Making people feel appreciated and delivering excellent quality goods and services is always good advice. In an economic downturn, it can mean the difference between surviving or going out of business.

Think of it this way, if you cannot contribute to someone financially, you might at least consider giving them a hand if needed or encouraging them so that they continue working and supporting their families. It will probably pay dividends all around.

When we stay connected and we work to stay positive, everybody benefits.

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