Tuesday, May 5, 2009

If the Present Seems Unstable.

Some of us still linger on with first-hand memories of the Great Depression, when unemployment rose as high as thirty percent and dispossessed or desperate people migrated west across the plains, the mountains and the deserts in rusty old cars and trucks, carrying as much as they could of their household necessities and treasures. They sought a new and more promising life in Oklahoma or California or someplace else far removed from what had once been home.

These were the years of my childhood. They were Spartan years, for the most part, but I remember our mother’s worry more than any real privation. Our father half-soled our Thom McAn shoes with kits from McCrary’s five-and-dime store, and a ten-cent ice cream cone was a treat for a special occasion. There was too much corn meal mush and not enough beef steak, but we never supposed that meat should be an everyday necessity.

Most of the people we knew were living on the same narrow track. In retrospect, I realize we were poor by today’s standards, but we didn’t know it. What I remember most is that we were happy. I recall long family walks on Sunday afternoons in the years when we had no car, and picnics in the park in later years when Dad’s used Oldsmobile opened up a wider world to us. The car was a symbol of better times and less for Mother to worry about.

Now some of that worry is back. As savings shrink and investments go sour, I take heart in the words of another of Kenneth Phifer’s poetic prayers: “If the present seems too unstable to trust / and the future impossible to discern, / Uphold me on my memories. Amen.”* Yes, Amen to that. Memories need not be just wistful. They can be reassuring.

~ Bert Johnston.
Visit me at www.bertjohnston.com.

* From Kenneth G. Phifer, A Book of Uncommon Prayer. Used with permission.

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