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The Modern American Family: The “New” Normal That Really Isn’t…

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multi-generational-families…all that new, that is.

I came across an article today that I just couldn’t quite let go of:

4 IN 5 IN US FACE NEAR-POVERTY, NO WORK.

Unfortunately, this is all-too-familiar news to an incredibly rapidly growing number of Americans… of every race, gender, nationality, and age group. Speaking for myself, I can tell you that I am 5 years in to my own membership of that 80% club, and – given those numbers – any further lamentations on the issue(s) of what it’s like, or how it feels, or just what changes and adjustments and adaptations one has had to make in their lives, would be little more than preaching to the choir.

homelessBut I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about the effect these troubled times is having on us, or the sacrifices we have had to make, or the lessons we have had (or should have been made by now) to learn, in the wake of what I believe is the “Great American Decline”.

Note that I didn’t say “Depression”.

Where, back then, there was a prevailing sense of ‘all hope being lost’, I still believe that, so far at least, the bulk of us continue clutching on to our ‘hope’ for a brighter future… if not for us then, at least for our children and grandchildren.

Mistakenly (near as I can tell) attributed to Thoreau or Emerson (among others), this quote from stockbroker Henry S. Haskins is as good a place to start as any:

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

And I think it’s what lies within us that is the real story in America today, despite the news inside the AP article which focuses so much on identifying and classifying victims while assessing all the ways in which things can be given to them, by the Government, once the Government has finished taking them from others who they determine can afford to have them taken away.

Now, this is not the place to digress on matters of policy and populism; mine is the goal of bringing to light all that we are accomplishing despite the odds against us.

When I was growing up, it was still normal for older adult children from my Mother’s generation (born in or around the Depression) to be living with their Parents or even their Grandparents. Whatever the reason, from the need to live at home to provide elder care, to not having sufficient financial resources of their own, to the matter of needing to pool resources just to survive, it just seemed “normal” for multi-generational families to live together. Further, as a pre-teen, I just assumed that’s what people did… I never stopped to ponder the deeper issues of how closely the Depression drew its survivors together, or what they knew – first hand – about poverty and how hard life could get. It just was.

AntillaBut something happened through the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s and 00’s; things changed. For a host of reasons the economy grew, millionaire became a household word, and – everywhere you turned – there was a new success story about somebody or other making something or other and getting rich… almost overnight.

And the kids grew up, and moved far away, and made lots of money… and families diversified and dispersed in as many different directions as there were roads and highways and helicopters and private jets to carry them.

It’s important to remember, though, that for all we’ve come to know – deep down inside – about the folly of glorifying someone who is really no better than the rest of us (once the bright lights are dimmed, and they – like us – hug their Mom, or kiss their spouse, or read a bedtime story to their child), we are to blame for getting drawn in and sucked down… we are the ones that lost our connections to our roots.

The good news, if there is any in the current climate, is that we never stopped clutching… to our hopes and our dreams, and to the family and friends and loved ones that have always been a part of what made us who we are; Americans, rich and poor, are who we were before the decline began, and who we remain to this very day. Our foibles and our drawbacks and our weaknesses and our strengths are little-changed. There’s hope in that.

addamsAnd so, after a couple generations of boom followed by the bust we’re in now, many of us are back home (or have moved the old folks in with us), rekindling the family fires, reacquainting with the traditions we let get away from us for a spell, and are being reminded again of where we came from, who we are, and how we’ll muddle through until things turn around.

As Marcus Aurelius once said:

Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live.

And where’s the bad, I ask you, in getting all the kooky Aunts and Uncles and Grandmas and Grandpas all back together again under one roof? What could possibly be more fun than a never-ending family reunion where you can check out, but you can never leave?

[images courtesy Modern American Poetry, Urban Christian News, EPagini]

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