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October 13, 2008

Every economic crisis has a silver lining

Economy_2The economy is imploding. We have a credit crisis. People are losing their homes, their retirement funds. Gas prices and food prices are on the rise. International markets are volatile. The dollar is losing value. The bailout is backfiring.

The economic meltdown is real. It's serious. It's scary. The future implications haven't yet been divined, but they will be significant. Each of us will be affected differently, but we will all be impacted.

I haven't felt it yet.  Every day I make school lunches, drive to football/volleyball/tennis/dance/trumpet/flute practices and lessons. I cook dinner, help with homework, supervise cleaning, bathing, brushing. I do laundry, pay bills, cut the grass, and on and on and on.  My daily life continues uninterrupted, even as the nation faces an altered global economy.

I'm not likely to impart much information about our dire economic state to my children. I'd rather share something else, the concept of self-reliance. Some of my favorite American authors -- John Steinbeck, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wallace Stegner -- tout the concept of self-reliance during times of economic hardship. Why put our faith in funds and markets and governments? Time and time again they've shown themselves to be a house of cards. Not just here but around the world.

Given the certainty of global uncertainty, I'd rather rely on myself and the people around me, those with names and familiar faces, for basic necessities. Rather than stress about a global famine, my family is buying a few chickens and planning a vegetable garden. We're growing herbs on the windowsill. We're forging relationships with local farmers and ranchers. Come to think of it, we may have an entire chicken coop so we can trade eggs for our neighbor's fresh goat milk. Small farm animals are perfectly legal within most city limits so trading commodities makes sense. And rather than worry ourselves sick about the price of oil, we're putting up solar panels and pumping up our bicycle tires. We're trading our paper certificates for assets we can trod upon or hold in our hands. I'm even taking a class in wool spinning and weaving. I'm sure I'll only create textiles for pleasure, but if worse comes to worst and we need clothing and blankets, I'll buy a few sheep, maybe even a couple alpacas, and be well ahead of the game.

Of course, I have faith that this economic crisis will pass and capitalism will live to see another day. But while we're in the middle of the storm, wouldn't it be a great time to illustrate the lessons of American history for our children? The bottom line is If we have food and shelter, we're okay. If we have hard assets, we're safe. If we have practical skills, we're prepared. And if we have each other to lean on, we are rich beyond measure.

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