The great depression took place primarily between the years of 1929 and 1939. One fourth of the American workforce was unemployed. Those numbers are still deceptive because many that had work had their pay reduced or their hours cut to part time. During those meager years for the average citizen their motto became:
“Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.”
My paternal grandfather was born in 1900. 1929 came as he was just starting to a see a better life ahead for his family. With the stock market crash came the loss of his income with a wife and family for which to care. I can’t imagine the stress and pressure of such a time. I have searched vintage black and white photos of that era. What struck me most, once I got beyond the poverty, was the difference between atmospheres of differing families. The looks in the faces seem to tell a story. Some homes seemed blighted, filthy and hopeless. Others were spotless and there seemed to still be joy. Certainly every family has its on story and some had it worse than others. However, having been born just a decade after the great depression I vividly remember the stories of the difficulty and even the humor of the time. One phrase seemed to be uttered over and over again by those who were children during that time. “We didn’t know we were poor.” That simple phrase speaks volumes to us. I can’t count the number of times I have heard it nor the many different families that said it. I noticed in the photos that when the parents of the family looked depressed, the children looked depressed as well. While most people that I have talked with about their great depression childhood have said, “we didn’t know we were poor”, many must have had their lives wrecked by the devastation that was upon their family life. Possibly the greatest damage done to these children was the absence of hope. One photo that struck me most was a poor family sitting around the kitchen table waiting for breakfast. The father was present, holding a small child on his lap and the rest sitting patiently as the mother rationed out the limited portions. All were very clean, the house spotless and the father had a pleasant demeanor. Heralding from that photo came the message to me “a legacy of hope!” We often talk about the responsibilities of parents to their children. Certainly, food, clothing and shelter are the basics. Providing safety, decency and identity are crucial as well. May we not forget to instill in our children and grandchildren a legacy of hope. A legacy that says, we will make it through difficulty. We will weather the storm and we will arrive safely at a better place. It is that steadfast inner strength that has seen our Nation through many dark hours. At the center of real hope is our faith in God. It is much greater than wishful thinking. True hope is solidly sitting atop a truth of knowing personally the One who is committed to the hope for our future. Interestingly enough statistics tell us that the great depression did not see a huge increase in faith and church attendance. You would think that it would. Evidently when the calamity came on the heels of the "roaring twenties", many had no Rock upon which to stand and no hope in which to believe. We must build in prosperity that which will stand during difficulty. Let us not forsake our children and grandchildren by not preparing them for difficult days. Every generation will see them. While giving them happiness, may we also teach them to hope.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11