Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 4/16/2009 [Archive]

Martha's Big Adventure - The Great Recession

Martha's Big Adventure -- The Great Recession

By Martha Randolph Carr

Life is lived on a very small scale despite our occasional fixation with celebrities and distant tragedies. The same is true on an economic level.

The Great Recession will be remembered on a global scale for the emergence of China as a powerhouse and the surprise by India at being caught up in the mess. On a national level we will all be talking about the massive bailouts and business failures for at least the next twenty years. There are already lots of book proposals about what it all means before it's even halfway done with us yet.

But on the very personal level the recession will be remembered as a time when we all had to rethink the labels we had given to ourselves such as homeowner or corporate type. It is one of the few times in the history of our country where so many people who made all the responsible moves in their lives lost everything anyway.

That can be a very tough lesson to quickly digest and then step forward once again. In part that's because a big piece of all of those responsible moves was delay of gratification for a little bit of a safety net. That means that a good portion of America is doing their best not to wince at the vacations they put off or the improvements to their home that never happened as they watched bonuses being paid from taxpayer bailouts.

This year a lot of people celebrated the day U.S. taxes are due by holding large tea parties in protest of the large bailouts and proposed tax hikes. Contrary to what a lot of pundits were blabbing about it being a protest of Obama, most of the people who were attending were there to say they're worn out from being last on the list for everything but the bill. That didn't start with the current administration.

Pile on top of that being laid off and sending out a flurry of resumes with only one or two responses. Or try reconciling paying back all of those loans from college to ensure a better life only to face in midlife steadily cutting back on every family activity in order to make sure there is still food on the table every night.

A rock solid definition as a good provider starts to seem a little harder to grasp but hold on to that thought because wrapped inside that loss is an enormous opportunity. Once we can let go of the shock and embarrassment we can also let go of the idea that what we do or where we live defines who we are or what we're worth. Those last two are intrinsic values that don't actually fluctuate but in the midst of the buying binge we've all been on lately it was getting a little harder to see.

If we can truly absorb the notion that choice can be based on what we really want to do or how we might be of service rather than how it will make us all look, imagine what we will create next.

America at its core is a country of optimists who always come back to believing in the possibilities whether it's bad for us like super-sized food, or good for us like creating Habitat for Humanity to empower communities. Therefore, the longer we are without our old labels the more likely we are to start to see ourselves and then everyone around us as valuable just because we're all here. That's when we'll put our creative genius to work and look for ways to enrich our communities rather than admire our Italian marble countertops.

We'll start to ask different questions that center more around what we're contributing rather than what we're acquiring and we'll value the community more than the corporate names splayed all over the sides of what are really civic buildings.

Our children and our grandchildren will probably look back at this era and be forever grateful that the party finally ended. They will then turn to us with a small thank you for the example we set way back in 2009 when we all got right back up again and came together to rebuild something better. After all, that's who we are in America. More adventures to follow.

If you'd like to get involved in the 2009 America Challenge to raise funds for community-based charities email me at for more information. Together we're going to build stronger communities and empower ourselves.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: Email Martha at: or visit

© 2009 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Download Martha Randolph Carr's black and white mug shot photo.

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