It’s winter and it’s cold. Sometimes I find myself grumbling as I slush around in the snow, or complain about my cold hands as I scrape the ice from my windshield. But there is one thought that can cure me of my grumpy attitude: What if I were driving a crudely constructed sleigh behind an ox team? What if instead of heading toward my comfortable office, I was taking my family into the wilderness of Lower Canada? Or, suppose I was making my laborious way up a trackless, snow-laden, southern Utah mountain in search of a few pounds of flour to save my children from starving. Suppose I was fording the frozen Mississippi, having left the labors of years behind me. We have grandfathers who came through those trials, and many more. I have to wonder how well I would have managed.
There is little question that we are about to find out just how well we will do with challenging times. There is comfort to know that there is some inherent genetic strength in us.
When one faces hard things there is always a choice. Whether to quail at the difficulty or to square the shoulders and say to oneself: “ I can do this…” or better still, “With the help of God, I can do this thing.”
As economic conditions become more difficult, it will be an easy temptation to look back to days of security and comparative ease and grump about “now”, compared to “then.” Or to indulge in the futility of fixing blame.
Better to remember, even with unaccustomed hardship, we are a most blessed people. We live in a land of peace and safety where our set of circumstances is the most promising of any time or place in history. Few of us will be required to clear away a forest until enough sun strikes the land to grow a few potatoes. Few will ever peel the bark from trees he’s felled to build a rude shelter for his family.
When we compare our lives with theirs, we are thankful for the challenges allotted to us and our time. We should also be grateful that they have demonstrated the kind of stuff that is in us. We can respond to hardship with confidence, courage, and plain good sense. They did. We can.
The need for compassion will abound on every hand. There will be many people upon whom the straggling economy will have a more devastating effect than it will have upon you and me. We will have to choose whether to hug our small measure of security to ourselves, or to be generous in our spirits and with our diminished means.
My mother is a symbol to me of nobility in poverty. From her meager store, she always had enough to share. The men who hitchhiked along the highway, going from place to place in search of work to sustain themselves, found both work and sustenance at her kitchen door. She kept an ax within her reach and a pile of un-chopped wood nearby. While they chopped, she prepared a nourishing meal. She spoke encouragement to them, while they ate. Then sent them on their way with a bundle of sandwiches for a later hunger.
Many of us will have lived through this kind of economy before. The experience will be a blessing to us as we face the future. Now is a good time to decide how we’ll allow times of recession to shape us. The people from whom we have come were people of industry, ingenuity and faith. Inspiration can come from consideration of their lives. Our heritage prompts us to say, “I can do this hard thing.”
Let us not allow our aptitude for joy to diminish. The capacity for joy does not correlate to the capacity to spend. It is possible to be happy with less. Elder James E Faust once wrote: “The relationship of money to happiness is, at best, questionable. The trouble is that too many of us try to consume happiness, rather than to generate it.”
We can generate much happiness with simple things. As I think back upon my early life, I remember the sheer happiness and hilarity of front-lawn visits with cousins and aunts and uncles. Our children may benefit greatly, as they learn to appreciate more and demand less.
All across the country, from east to west, are places infused with the history of our family. These places and the stories of the people who have lived there, or lie buried there, can inspire us with courage and confidence to weather trials.
Whenever it is possible, gather your families at these spots. From the lives of those from whom we descend, we feel our own inherent strength. From their lives we learn that whatever comes, we can do this thing. The power is in us!
Dixie L. Leavitt, President