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The End of a Second Gilded Age

Spring Blossom

I live in a house that is almost right downtown. Right outside my front door, I took out the green grass and put in long boxes of raised beds which contain peas, lettuce, beans, zucchini, roses, apples trees, blueberries and enough flowers to dazzle your eyes at nearly every season. I live with a fairly short growing season. My State’s government is right in my line of vision. My family can walk to work, school, the library, the farmer’s market, grocery store and food coop. We work at knowing our neighbors and their families and with effort we look out for each other. Much of our married life we owned only one car and enough bikes for everyone to get where they needed to go. We have been blessed by our choices and our decisions.

Mark Twain wrote about The Gilded Age, and I think he was on to something which we are going to experience again – now will be “The end of the Second Gilded Age”. As the economy seems to be only working for the few at the top, one can now witness that there are a large number of folks who never experienced anything but the Gilded Age in their lives and they do not know how to cope, compensate, or survive in the new current down turn in their finances. I feel blessed that my parents survived the Great Depression and several World Wars and I was able to learn the lessons they knew and willingly passed along.

We moved closer to downtown because we wanted to be closer to our daily living. To be just a fifteen minute walk from work and school was a great boon to our lives, considering how walking is touted as such a good exercise for people, and we did not need to pollute by driving our car every day. My kids got to feast on fresh raspberries for after school snack and they enjoyed working on their own food helping to grow it and feasting upon it. They were not isolated out on a farm and they still had the opportunity to experience directly how things grow and families work.

We did not do this alone and are not even the best or most knowledgeable about making ends meet. Many, many of our neighbors have gardens and live carefully upon the planet. For years, we offered support and participated in a monthly voluntary simplicity group discussion. We studied the experts and the scientists and everyone shared good stuff about what they had learned to help them get along. We have been blessed by these conversations and are thankful for the helping hands and ideas that came our way. I think I have just acknowledged the secret to our success – we stayed in conversation with other folks. We asked questions and were guided to resources.

It is the dialogue and the discussion that keeps us learning and assists us in holding to our core values. When one feels they have to be “all together” for their friends and interactions, I wonder what individual can have all the answers? How can dressing just right and having all the right moves make for connections? When I am out walking a whole host of folks are busy talking on their cell phones, and yet in overheard, passing by moments it seems like they are conversations about who is doing what to whom and scheduling to get everyone to activities on the list of the day’s events. Is it money what decides what are the correct moves and undertakings?

Without discussion one can get so caught up within their own thinking and perceptions one can be fooled and deceived. When there are lies and misinformation how can one assist or respond in a beneficial way? I think of all the things that people did during WWII to help in the war effort, from Victory Gardens, and rationing cards, new jobs created, women to work, and people taking care of children to keep them safe during the fierce fighting. I believe that people truly wish to be helpful and want to assist others, but if they don’t know what to do then sets in frustration – discouragement.

I get very hopeful when I read that labor unions are getting active again and sharing their messages out loud in rallies and marches. That good folks are gathering together to figure out how they can assist veterans returning from the war have a healthy transition, warms the cockles of my heart – and they are forming some good plans and strategies. And my own neighbors heard of a single mom who ran out of funds to finish college this spring – well childcare, food and funds were gathered and shared. Then there are the authors talking to us through their good books about how to live to your values such as: Barbara Kingslover and family writing about how they did not want to be part of the water problems in the Southwest so they moved away and documented their homegrown lifestyle in ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’. I have on my reading list a book-cookbook written by a couple in Seattle who only used food that was available within a hundred mile radius and documented their findings. How wonderful to have ‘YES, the magazine about positive futures’ (www.YesMagazine.org) both on the website and in print form, and to see all the positive ideas and solutions around the world helping to make people’s and the earth’s future brighter more promising.

When I discovered how many trees it took to produce all those unwanted Holiday Catalogs (millions of trees) and I know that trees are our filter system for clean air, I went searching and found www.GreenDimes.org This group stops all the unwanted mail to your mailbox for free they will show you how, for a lifetime $20 fee or a premium fee of $36 also for a lifetime they will do it for you and plant trees in their wake.

It is the talking and sharing ideas that really helps one grow their values into a successful life. My concern today is that there are so many folks who don’t know how to discuss or learn, many too who value controlling others rather than supporting people and their diversity. My greatest hope today is that the economic down turn will help adjust our society and culture and assist us in finding those meaningful conversations that support our hopes, dreams and families – and the earth! Oh that would make tough times a blessing.

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