I was driving home the other day and I noticed (another) foreclosure sign just outside Hyde Park Village. Our village general store is closing. Many of the local eateries and businesses have vanished as well.
I’ve been thinking a lot about these things the last half a year or so. When you think of the Great Depression what comes to mind? For me it’s the photos of the soup lines, the hobo towns and homeless, the well dressed men in suits looking for work. The Great Depression had a face. It was captured in the thousands of pictures taken during that period of our history. We remember because it’s a part of our history that impacted our nation. We care because we can see the suffering and struggling in their faces, in their eyes.
What about today? Is there a face of our Great Recession? I don’t think so. Soup lines are gone never to return. Replaced by food shelves and shares that reach and support thousands of families. They do an amazing job in a respectful and dignified way for so many. Unemployment has become much easier than ever before with the advent of the Internet. It wasn’t that long ago when those folks on unemployment had to go business to business asking for work, and requesting a signature stating they had been to that business seeking employment. Now? The Internet makes it amazingly simple to not only file your claim, but send out resumes, file applications, and complete the process in much less time. It also, however, keeps those seeking work faceless to all the employers and businesses they’re applying to, as well as to all of us.
During the Great Depression many homeless and unemployed found support and comfort from others in their same predictament. They formed communities and helped those feeling and living those same experiences during those troubled times. Many of our neighbors facing those same challenges today, do so alone. They receive the help and support from those organizations helping stave off hunger and homelessness, but the sense of community, the emotional support of others facing similar struggles is no longer applicable.
Our neighbor’s homes are foreclosed on before we ever know they’re struggling. They’re gone and the signs posted before we even had a clue.
I’m not complaining about our support systems. Unemployment, food shares, WIC, and many other organizations do a tremendous job of supporting our neighbors during these difficult periods. And I am certainly not a voyeur wanting to see the sacrifices, (unwarranted) embarrassment, and struggle of my neighbors. But I do think for many working well off Americans the plight of so many of their neighbors is faceless. And will this period of struggle in our country be remembered 70 years from now without a face to care about?
And that facelessness allows for apathy towards these challenges we face as a nation.
I don’t have any suggestions on how to improve upon this problem. I wish I did. I will, however, make a concerted effort within my own community to try and help as many neighbors who may be struggling as possible, and I hope that by strengthening my own community involvement I’ll have opened two more eyes to the faces of my neighbors.
And I will remember.