Before I write any farther, I want to be very clear; those people without jobs are having a hard time of it. Those people who have lost jobs through no fault of their own, that has to be very hard. Those people who are out looking for jobs every day, my heart goes out to them, truly. That is a hard place to be, very hard.
So what am I writing about here? I was texting with my daughter, Brandon, this morning and found myself hitting on some topics that resonate. One was, “People forget how easy we have it.” Easy? It doesn’t seem easy to me. Well wait a second.
I was told this a number of years back and believe it’s true. My great grandfather and grandmother were married almost a hundred years ago, in the earliest years of the 20th century. They must have been passionately in love. He was the son of a farmer. As a wedding present, they were given the chicken coop to live in; an uninsulated chicken coop in central Vermont. Let’s face it, that’s just really cold.
Skip a generation down to my Mom. Again, she lives in a farming household in central Vermont in the early 40s. They live up a winding road, one that follows the curves of a swift running brook. Saturday night was bath night (no baths inbetween as you had to heat the water on the wood stove). During the late spring, summer, and early fall, the bath was donedown in that stream with a bar of soap and some rapid scrubbing. I know from personal experience with that particular brook it was never not icy cold; good for a drink, not so good for a bath.
Skip a generation to me. It is the early 60s. I love to go to my grandmother’s to visit. Every morning my grandfather gets up to go milk the cows at 4:30. I like to try to sneak out and watch him working, surprise him. My grandmother makes great food, fresh from the farm. She cooks it on the wood stove. I’m not wild about the using the outhouse. It is a cold walk through the unheated part of the house. I hate the smell and the seat is bone-jarringly chilly.
Skip to now. My wife works at Page High School as the registrar. There are all sorts of people that claim to be homeless so that they can move from one district to another. These homeless people have recently manicured fingernails. They don’t pay attention to her as they are too busy talking on their cell phones. When they don’t have the right documentation they get in their cars and drive to the central office to get it. This is not a particular case. It is the norm, day in, day out. These are our homeless.
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law have moved here from Romania. He works night shifts, but says the work is easy. She works as a nurse at a nursing home. She will take whatever extra hours she can to make ends meet. And there are always extra hours from other nurses calling in sick or taking time off. That’s hard to do. But they live in a house that they own with the help of a bank. And they have two cars, cell phones, computers, cable TV, and three kids in school. But they are at the bottom of their income brackets, having a hard time of it. They don’t complain. This is luxury compared to Romania.
I was laid off last year in May. I was one of the lucky ones; I was able to find a job in a month in IT. My field is the exception. As I sit here at the bank, writing SQL, designing databases, solving puzzles, I am surrounded by legal immigrants, mostly Asian, doing many of the same things. There aren’t enough qualified American applicants for these positions. As I drive home I see construction workers and lawn care folks. Almost all are Hispanic. I’m told that most non-Hispanic Americans won’t take these jobs; they are too hard and pay too little.
I work hard at what I do, sitting in an air-conditioned office solving data puzzles that I see on two screens. I make my living with my head, not my muscles. I can do this because I got a good education with the help of some government grants and some student loans. My parents did not have any money to contribute to my college education. And I pay a huge amount of taxes because of my salary. I don’t mind that. I got helped by the government. I want to help others in the same way. But I don’t want my taxes to go to people who are gaming the system. Don’t get me wrong, it is paramount that we give a hand up to those people that need it. Just don’t game the system.
It seems to me that Brandon is right. We live in pretty easy times. And right now, the times just aren’t as easy as they were. But even so, they are comparatively easy. This depression, though most Americans won’t admit it, is still a life of exorbitant luxury compared to almost all of the rest of the world.
And what I really know is that, unlike my own great grandparents, I don’t live in a unheated, uninsulated chicken coop in central Vermont. We live the lives of kings.