Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nothing left to steal

When I came back to Fairhope in the mid 1980's to open a new location of the company I worked for, I scouted the area to determine where we would first focus our efforts.  As I drove down Martin Luther King Blvd. in Prichard (a suburb of Mobile, AL) trying to identify the industrial areas that would be our most likely customers, I drove through what once had been a prosperous downtown shopping district.  Most of the stores were now closed but I stopped my car in front of one building and read a message spray painted on the boarded-up windows.  The sign read:  Nothing left to steal.  I was stunned.  I had never seen such a blatant sign of depression and the stark reality of the plight of this community was sobering.

Twenty five years later, as we wrestle with the effects of the recent economic downturn, I've had to remind myself of a couple of things:
  1. Things aren't as bad as we may think, and
  2. we've been through economic downturns before and come out of them.
It's important to remember that we measure our current conditions against that to which we have recently become accustomed. We experienced a prolonged period of economic prosperity in recent years here in the U.S.  The economy was strong, real estate values were climbing, technology was rapidly advancing and many people were living more prosperously than ever before.  We were lulled into thinking that this was the norm when, in reality, it was a spike in growth.  As the economy cooled down, we began to wring our hands and fret and when it took a sharp downward turn last fall, we panicked.  It's time to take a deep breath.  Yes, you and I are facing new challenges.  Both the bookstore that I owned for 10 years and the one that I subsequently managed until a couple of months ago were casualties of this downturn, too.  I'm not working full-time, yet either but it's not the end of the world.  Times are more challenging but this is not the worst that our country has experienced in the last few generations.

I've heard it said that it's only when we drain the swamp that we see the stumps.  It's times like these that force us to refocus, to reset priorities, and to get creative.  We look for ways to eliminate waste, become more efficient and reallocate our resources.  We look for more creative ways to earn a living and we will be better for it. That's as it should be.

God is still in control and we need to act like we believe that.

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