When the going gets tough, the tough get going." That sounds like a slogan of hope for our troubled world.
All we need do is read the news, and we could become depressed. So should we stop listening or reading the media? I really don't think so. It is important we keep up with our daily world, even though the happenings cause us to "quiver and quake." However, there are some events, past and present, that could give us pause to reflect and think positively.
These days, our economic news is "up and down." I could get quite dizzy watching it, but since I grew up a long time ago, I've been well exposed to change. Also, I realize the only constant in life is change, and Americans are great in adapting to adversity and change.
Adapting to adversity
I was born during the Depression, so don't remember much about it. I wish I had asked more questions of my parents about their life in those days. During the Depression of the 1930s, not all Americans had jobs to buy food and clothing so they "did without" or "made do." My dad sold insurance to whomever had a dime for payment that month. He also had occasional work as an electrician for the Union Pacific railroad in Denver where we lived. He carried his lunch in a black lunchpail and walked more than 20 blocks to and from work.
My mom sewed all our clothes and made everything from scratch. She sang and played the old upright piano before supper. We gathered about and sang along. I don't remember ever not having enough to eat, but ox tail soup and lamb stew were not my favorites though we had them often for supper. We sure did clean our plates. My grandmother would say, "Willful waste makes willful want." We never knew we were poor.
Everyone worked together
Then along came the 1940s, with World War II. Americans again "did without," this time for the war effort. Everyone was involved. The federal government set up a rationing system in 1942 and limited purchases of gasoline, sugar, coffee, meat, fish, butter, eggs, cheese, shoes and articles with rubber. Rationing affected rural America especially because of the need for fuel for farm implements, though farmers received additional rations. Our family did not own a car, so we did not worry about gas rationing. We had public transit streetcars, and a nickel was fare or else we walked.
Other commodities were in short supply because trade routes were disrupted. Silk and newly invented nylon was used to produce parachutes, so nylons stockings were rationed, if available. My sister and I used makeup on our legs and drew a line for a seam on the back legs when we were teens. My mother saved any fat drippings and made soap, which was really rather ugly but it did work well for the laundry.
There were those who profiteered from the shortages, and although a black market existed, most Americans simply accepted things as they were and worked together for the war effort.
The spirit of youth
At school on Tuesdays, if we had any money, we could buy saving stamps for a dime each to put into the book that, when filled, would be turned in for a Victory War Bond or EE bond. We collected newspapers, tied them with twine and carted them off the 12 blocks to the school paper drive, along with rubber, tin cans and other metal for the war effort. This could be thought of as the initial effort for recycling.
In our large backyard, we always had a garden, so we were already for the Victory Gardens. Kids had contests to see who had the best and most vegetables. We weeded and hoed, and Mother canned the prolific harvest of raspberries, beans, beets, chard and pickles. I am sure there were other crops, but those are the ones I remember.
Hope for troubled days
Nowadays, we hear of the problems with young people; how some are out of control, vandalize and have even more serious problems. But the hope of our future is secure in the youth who, like those in the past, demonstrate willingness to serve, to be creative and aware of their responsibilities.
This summer, we see evidence of that spirit in some new faces in our community. The Salina Diocese youth of Hays and other communities have been assisting with chores and needs in Hays, Beloit and Arkansas. These young people are here giving their time and energy to those who need a helping hand. They are following Mother Teresa of Calcutta's words from her 1979 Nobel Peace Prize presentation when she said, "I want you to find the needs here, right in your own home first. And begin love there. Be that good news to your own people."
Other youth groups are equally inspirational and active in providing services to our community. Meanwhile, the media continue to pump out stories of crime and ill doings, the stock market goes down at alarming rates, food prices soar, gas pumps raid our savings. Yes, this is disturbing (and it should be). But look around and hope. See the strength of our people with the will to survive with dignity and the good that is evident in our community. Let us continue to be true Americans -- adapting to hard times, being creative when faced with problems, caring about and protecting our country's values, working together and doing the best with what we have. That is the unbeatable American spirit. "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
Ruth Moriarity, Hays, is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.