The Great Depression in the United States began in October of 1929 and, essentially, lasted until we entered World War II in December of 1941.
My Dad and his two brothers were born in the middle of the Great Depression, all within 3 years. The way my Dad explains it, my grandparents were Italian Catholics and there was no television. Enough said. My Mom was also born during the Depression, but not until the end, January of 1941.
It’s funny to listen to my parents and their siblings sometimes. Life often stops for them at a time that they remember fondly and they easily fall into a game of “remember when?”.
“Remember when” bread only cost ten cents? “Remember when” we could go to the movies for a quarter?” Mom’s “remember when” includes a song she used to sing when her mother sent her to the store. All the way there she would sing, “A carton of milk, a loaf of bread, and four hard rolls.” I think the whole list must have cost .50 cents. I think this because Mom still thinks most things cost .50 cents. “Can you pick me up (whatever)? What does it cost .50 cents?” Dad pays the bills and is a little more aware of the cost of things today; but he will still, at times, “remember when”.
Before my Uncle Joe passed away, my Dad and I would pick up his 11 months younger brother and take him to Starbucks. Uncle Joe loved to “remember when”. He couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast that day, but he sure could “remember when”. One day he and I went on a ‘date’, just the two of us. Starbucks was to be his treat, but he wanted to make a quick stop at the post office to buy a stamp so he could mail a birthday card. He told me he had his money all ready and he had the exact amount for his stamp. He was holding .13 cents. When I told him a stamp, at that time, would cost him .49 cents; he was shocked. He looked at me in disbelief and said, “When did that happen?”
When Mom and Dad “remember when” they often recall their childhood days. Their memories are carefree and leave them laughing as they remember all the days when they had nothing, and yet, had everything they needed. Life at that time was hard but simple. There was a sense of community and caring. I guess it was because of what they were all going through together. Nobody was better than anyone else. They were all in the same leaky boat and they all bailed water side-by-side. Caring meant sharing and they did.
There are times when we, as a people and as a nation, go back to our roots of caring means sharing. I remember blizzards in the northeast when the people on our street would band together, shoveling each other out and making sure everyone still had heat and anything else they might need. I remember 9-11, when we banded together as a nation to care for each other through an attack that was unheard of in this country until then. Caring was sharing during those times.
Recently, my parents experienced an occasion of caring is sharing. They were told that their air-conditioning unit, inside and out, needed to be replaced. They have a very nice A/C man who had put multiple ‘band-aids’ on their unit for as long as he could. But, the ‘band-aids’ were no longer sticking and a new unit was needed. The cost quoted was $3,500, quite a far cry from the cost of things in their “remember when” days and quite a bit more than they were able to pay. I hadn’t talked to all of the family yet and I wasn’t sure how this would happen; but, as Christians, we know to never take God out of the equation.
And so, we prayed.
Mom took it a step further and began to thank the Lord for her new air-conditioner. She thanked Him every morning when she woke up and every night before she laid her head on her pillow. She thanked Him and she waited, expectantly. She had no idea how or where this money would come from, but she knew that it would.
Mom has a friend, actually Mom has lots of friends, but this particular friend is a very special friend. Her name is Anne-Marie. Anne-Marie is Italian and I like to embellish her name with a little bit of Italian flair and call her, “Anna-Maria”! She is an old friend of the family, who is more like family than not. Recently Anne-Marie’s family has been in crisis and she and Mom have been talking. The other day during the course of conversation and by way of encouragement, Mom shared with Anne-Marie about her air-conditioning unit and her assurance of the Lord’s faithfulness and provision saying, “I know that the Lord will provide.”
Anne-Marie’s response, “Yes, I know He will because I’m writing a check and sending it to you tonight.” Mom was speechless. Mom is never speechless. When Mom told Anne-Marie she would pay her back, she was told it was a “gift”. When Mom called and told me, we both cried. When I shared this with my husband, he got choked up, as well.
The Lord is faithful in all of His ways.
Caring is sharing. It’s a very big deal.
The depression was slow to reach Seattle. My parents were born the year before Black Thursday and didn’t take full swing until the 30’s. For mom, on one side of the tracks, it meant no more cashmere sweaters. Grandma always had a large black kettle of soup on the front porch so no one would go hungry. Dad, on the other side of the tracks, bought broken down cars, fixed them and sold them to get by. He bought from the near-poor and sold to the next tier up who had sold their nicer cars and needed a good cheaper car.
I also have my “remember when” for when I lived in Seattle. I paid $16 every other month for power, then I moved here and it was $200 every month (and now $300. To be fair, it’s in the hundreds in Seattle now, but that’s because they tax everything there to ridiculous levels).