“ How To Remain Hopeful In the Midst Of the Worst Financial Crisis Since the Great Depression"
By Miriam Medina

Every time the New Year begins, we always hear people making new resolutions, whether they refer to weight loss, pursuing a career or whatever they wish to accomplish in life. The commencement of a new year always brings hope to the minds of the people. Hope for a better and safer existence in the world. Hope for economic improvement as well as a chance to strengthen important relationships with family and friends, to take stock of our lives and change directions if we need to. It is a time for soul-searching, goal setting, as well as focusing on being a more productive person by working hard, using our intellect and daring to be enterprising. But most of all, it is the emergence of wanting to become a better special someone.

Unfortunately, the ending of the year 2008 and the beginning of the year 2009 has found America as well as the entire Globe in horrendous economic conditions which are sucking us into its chaos with a disturbing velocity making money scarce and credit more expensive.

For most people, it is not a period to set goals or to pursue careers, but a time when people are seeking employment, being fired, or trying desperately to hang onto jobs they already have. The catastrophic economic baggage from one year to another continues to be dragged, while people struggle with their normal overhead expenses of supporting themselves as well as their family. Retired seniors on fixed pensions and social security benefits, individuals with low income, as well as those that are unemployed are also having a tough time, in keeping up with their rent and mortgage obligations. Parents who still have their child in a higher education are feeling the crunch of the current economic atmosphere. Not to mention the other unexpected issues and calamities that interrupt the normal flow of our daily life such as illness, accidents and unemployment. Some individuals are still fortunate to have a nest egg as a cushion to fall back on, while for others of limited means, who live from hand to mouth, this unfortunate economic situation which has now by and large materialized, is downright terrifying with absolutely no guarantee that the worst is behind us.

With the stock market plunging into a pit of despair, disturbing reports of plants/factories shutting down, massive unemployment, bankrupt businesses and banks closing their doors, farm and home foreclosures at an all-time high , many jubilant investors who were celebrating record highs in the stock market only a year or two ago, are now severely crushed by their losses.

As a result of layoffs and rising costs, many have been pushed over the brink into homelessness. Families that have lost their homes have had to depend on relatives or friends in order to survive. Others who were less fortunate would seek refuge at the local shelters or live on the streets. It is said that in some communities, tent cities are going up as shelters overflow beyond capacity. Non-profit charitable organizations that are providing shelters, food, as well as medical and psychiatric care to needy individuals are hard hit by the current uncertainty in our economy and are in dire need of financial support to continue keeping their doors open.

"While the banking industry has been the center of public attention and funds, with the auto industry clamoring for the same support, the needs of poor Americans have been largely neglected.”  (NLCHP) There are many Americans that are suffering physical and emotional hardships, because they are not able to afford medical insurance or because they have lost their coverage as a
result of unemployment. The emergency rooms and free care clinics are filled with these needy individuals seeking free medical attention where most of them are given "low priority, unless critical."

So I ask you, dear readers, this question: "How do we as individuals remain hopeful in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?

First and foremost, it is clear that there are no immediate solutions for fixing the current financial crisis; nor is there a magic wand we can wave to stabilize the national and global economy which may give us back our jobs, our homes and restore our financial state of well being. So what then? HOW should we respond to this economic crisis? What we need to do above all as Americans is to have faith, faith in God and faith in our capacity to deal with and overcome each challenge that we are confronted with. The United States has passed through several notable financial crisis, such as the ones in 1815,1819,1837, 1857,1869, 1873, 1893, 1901 and 1907, with the exception of 1837, 1893 and 1929.These years were defined as "major depressions because of the depth and duration of the collapse . Some attribute these panics to overexpansion and debts, overextended notes and discounts, overinvestment and falling prices, etc.

The Roaring Twenties were prosperous years, where Americans spent money recklessly. It was a unique dramatic era in all of its aspect. "America was enjoying an era of great prosperity." Economic expansion created booming business profits which in turn raised the standard of living for most Americans.

By 1928 everyone was singing praises to the glory days of America. It was a time when American businessmen and economists were feeling overly confident that the erratic fluctuations in the business cycle were finally under control. They were not even curious about the terrible sense of foreboding of some impending doom that was looming over the nation like a black cloud. Little did they know at the time that this would be a rude awakening for the "American Dream" of many, which they undoubtedly would be caught unprepared.

In Wall street you would find the most daring and shrewd intellect of the nation who could produce a panic in an instant and shake the world's foundation. No man can tell one week whether he would be a beggar or a millionaire the next. While one man made a fortune by a sudden rise in stocks or gold, one thousand would be ruined. Even the soundest and best established firms fell with a crash under these sudden reverses. The image of the once powerful, self-confident, successful men walking briskly to and fro is obviously replaced by one of nervous pacing, distress and cries of despair as they witness the crumbling of their world. Much of their failure was attributed to stock speculations, business deals gone wrong and extravagant living. Unable to cope with their losses, there are those that have suffered nervous breakdowns, heart attacks, or committed suicide, leaving their families financially unprotected and homeless.

The Panic of 1929 and the ensuing depression were the most terrible the nation had ever suffered. "The stock market crash on October 23, 1929 wiped out an average of more than a billion dollars worth of paper values a day. A staggering total of 15 million were unemployed, and those who continued to work did so under greatly reduced wage scales." The flow of capital into productive enterprise slowed down to a trickle. The country was suffering from under consumption not overproduction. Banks were weighted down with government bonds, real estate mortgages based on greatly appreciated valuations, and highly speculative securities. Although, each of these crisis with its unpleasant consequences culminated in "Hard Times" for the American people, the country still survived, returning to business as usual, resuming its former prosperity and growth, yet ignoring the lessons of the past..

However, once again, we find ourselves currently facing a new financial dilemma; this time, one of greater magnitude. Now, more than ever we are in desperate need of Faith to deal with the immense problems ahead of us and hope that there will be a "business as usual," in the near future.

The general over-all picture is looking quite dismal and apprehension has been clouding everyone's thoughts. Most people are going through extremely difficult times where their world seems to have crashed around them, plunging them into feelings of helplessness and despair, afraid to think of the future.  The loss of income has forced many to make drastic changes to their lifestyles. Fear of the unemployment check ending or their savings being depleted is constantly before them. Yet, we cannot linger and wallow in negative attitudes and emotions. If we are to face the future with any kind of strength, the first thing we need to do is to discourage and eliminate those negative emotions driven by fear, panic, anxiety, and despair and substitute it with positive emotions. A negative mind does not inspire courage, faith or belief. "A mind dominated by positive emotions, becomes a favorable abode for the state of mind known as faith." (Napoleon Hill)

 The Readers Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary defines faith as: 1) Confidence in or dependence on a person, statement, or thing as trustworthy: trust. 2) Belief without need of certain proof. 3) Belief in God or in testimony about God as recorded in Scriptures or other religious writings. Then what is hope? "Hope," is to desire with expectation of fulfillment.

The emotion of faith is the most powerful of all positive emotions. By keeping your faith strong you will believe that you can and will achieve whatever you are determined to accomplish. But if you allow the element of fear to be the dominating factor instead, then it will fill you with doubts and unbelief in your ability to connect and produce a successful outcome to whatever your situation may be. First and foremost, try starting this day by being grateful for what you DO have and give thanks for it.

 A skeptic would probably say: “Faith? Hope? Get real lady, you don't even have a clue of what I and others like me are going through!" "It's just not that easy!" "You're definitely not in our shoes!"

Believe me, I am not being unsympathetic. I do understand your anger and my heart feels your anguish. I agree that there are circumstances that are totally out of our control, while others are of our own making. Economic distress is suffered by all groups within the community. Each person's situation is genuinely real and completely different. While some have undergone substantial losses, others have suffered less. Nevertheless, no one's distress is in anyway less acute than the other. Even at this very moment my own household is also being affected by this financial crisis. The current uncertainty in our economy, especially not knowing how bad it will get before it gets better again, makes options extremely limited.

Though I have good cause for worry, I really don't want it to become an obsession disturbing my sleep and influencing my daily activities. So if I maintain a positive attitude toward the problem that I am facing, this will remove my attention from the object of worry and place me in a state of calmness without turmoil and agitation. In doing so, this will enable me to think with clarity and help
me to exercise self-control in dealing with my circumstances. One has to meet his or her problem in a positive constructive way, no matter how dismal it may seem. There are those who have accepted the challenge and have been successful. Again it is not what happens to us, but HOW we react to it that counts. So we all need to start right, because when we start right on this journey of faith and hope, half of the battle is won.

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