Hard knocks

Whether or not your family has been affected by the recession in the ways that our family has, we might all agree that there are casualties of this latest financial collapse who will never recover. There are hardships that will take years to overcome or repair. Yet, historically speaking, we might also agree that what we all just went through was a cakewalk.

My pioneer ancestors (and probably yours) buried their young due to dysentery, croup, scarlet fever, and measles. They often starved, in the grip of an extended Upper Michigan winter, eating tree bark after all other food resources were long exhausted. They worked 18-hour days and made music on whatever instruments they could craft. Books were a luxury.

They marched into wars fought on their own lands. They lost limbs to farm accidents. They struggled with drought and floods, with raiders, and with wandering, hungry animals. Yet they got down on their knees and praised God, and they reverently hung presidential portraits in modest living rooms. And they prevailed.

How? One advantage they had, that we might not so readily claim today, was a larger and nearer nuclear family. More mouths to feed, but more hands to lift the logs to build the house. More family to bury, but even more family to help even out the hard times and to go forth and prosper.

In the past year, due to the recession, Kevin and I both have had brothers come to stay with us for a month or so – not because they missed us (they did), but because they were unemployed and at the end of their resources. Our orphaned siblings needed a place to land – that place called “home” where someone cares, regardless of how old you are or what you carry in your wallet. They weren’t looking for a handout, but rather a hand up.

Now those brothers are back in Kentucky and Missouri, and we’re comfortably into our daily routines again … for a short while. As I write this, we’re finalizing plans to bring Kevin’s second brother “home” from Kentucky. He’s unemployed and, as he put it on the phone with me today, “I got nothin’ better to do” than come and stay with us for a while.

He’s apprehensive (I can hear it in his voice), and he should be. We’ve never met before. He doesn’t know our grandchildren or our daily routines with our jobs, entertainments, and three dogs, not to mention our hectic travel schedules. All he knows is that we’re family, too. And that, loyal readers, is all he needs to know.

I’m admittedly a little apprehensive at the prospect of meeting a rogue brother-in-law, but history reminds me of my many blessings and of the necessity, strength, and resilience of family roots. The nuclear family that I have built with my husband, like yours, extends to our brothers and sisters in need. I truly believe that by reaching out, we also will help to rebuild this great country that we love so much. And that’s all I need to know.

Sign up for the free IB Update – your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. Click here.