Thursday, October 22, 2009

Portrait: Prince George's County, Maryland

Last night my husband and I broke down and tapped into our very last resort. We emptied my 16 month old daughter’s piggy bank for money to sustain us for the next 10 days until our next paydays.

Despite the dire straits that we might seem to be in right now, we are both in high spirits and counting the many blessings and graces that we have both been granted. All of our bills are paid and we are both gainfully employed in jobs that are definitely not known for being financially lucrative (teaching). We are all healthy but if that fails us, we have amazingly comprehensive health coverage provided by our employers with little to no possibility that it will be taken from us. We have plenty of food in the refrigerator and pantry of more than just the staples and we’ve got a washer and dryer that we don’t have to feed with spare change to work. We both have reliable cars and one was even just able to be paid off. The debt that we do have has been significantly reduced within the past year due to our own diligence at paying it down and eliminating it all together. And to top it all off, we are one of the many American who were lucky enough to buy our first house in one of the most expensive regions of the country and at a price that will not fill us with regret or lead us to foreclosure later.

A part of me has been hesitant to share our experience in this time of recession because our story is so far from being the nightmare that I know others have endured and will continue to endure. I’m certain that plenty of people will read what I’ve detailed of our life and feel it has no place within this collective and also ask what we’ve done to be able to make it through mostly unscathed. The fact of the matter is that our success hasn’t come because of some great big secret though. It’s come from our willingness and commitment to living as simply as possible, understanding and accepting what is no more than just enough, and commitment to living in faith that we will never be given anything that we can’t handle and everything that might seem to come beyond that will be taken care of God alone.

I’m sure that at this point I’ve lost a number of people but I can’t lie and say that our happiness, peace, and joy comes from any place other than a belief much greater than ourselves. Because though we’ve lived a good life, understand that it’s not been easy for us and has definitely included major sacrifices and hardships. Before we were here in life, we lived in a neighborhood where you couldn’t walk around outside at night and you could regularly hear gunfire and see drug dealing. Before we were here in life, there were weeks on end when we trained ourselves to be able to live on maybe one meal a day that was understatedly meager. Before we were here in life, we had to learn to swallow our pride and understand that accepting handouts when they were truly needed didn’t mean an acceptance of the life that we had or an acceptance that things couldn’t or wouldn’t change.

So what’s our secret to “making it” in a time like this? It’s our belief in God and the power of prayer. It’s our commitment to banding together rather than tearing each other apart the way it feels like the world around us is. And it’s our willingness to let go of the life that we once thought we were due so that we can have a life of exactly enough but somehow filled to the brim of everything we ever wanted in the first place.

Despite our differences, our story is as much a portrait of this recession as everyone else’s. Yes, we’ve gained plenty and have succeeded in much. But understand that we’ve lost things as well. However, the things that we’ve lost -pessimism, hopelessness, anger, selfishness, overindulgence, and fear – are things that anyone in this world would be so blessed to lose as well. Because losing all of that will only give way to a strongly rooted belief that hope and faith can and will spring eternal. If only you let it.

Prince George's County, Maryland