By Judith Cassis
As I write this column, many Santa Clarita families are sitting down to dinner. On one side of town is a family whose needs are more than met. Dad works. Mom doesnâ€™t have to, but she enjoys the sense of accomplishment afforded by her career. The extra money she earns pays for a part-time nanny, who supervises the kids after school and doubles as a weekend housekeeper.
A few miles away, on another side of town is a family in which both husband and wife work hard, because they must. They have no choice. They need two incomes just to survive.
One might argue that this is the way it is in every American city, large or small. I wouldnâ€™t disagree. Iâ€™d also add that this is the way itâ€™s been for a long time. Itâ€™s nothing new. The difference is that since the economic down-turn a few years ago, you might find these two families living not on separate sides of town, but in the same neighborhood; maybe even right next door to each other.
Over the last several years, jobs have been lost, businesses have closed and lives have changed; some drastically. Here in Santa Clarita weâ€™ve seen family businesses and hometown staples – like the hardware store in Newhall – close their doors after decades of prosperity. Sometimes without warning, the proverbial rug has been pulled out from beneath many unsuspecting feet.
A few years ago, a local bicycle shop went out of business after having served our community for 40 years. My husband asked the owner what happened. Was nobody riding bikes anymore? The owner told him he was closing because his shop could no longer compete with a large national chain that had moved into the area. They were selling bikes for less than he could buy them wholesale. He didnâ€™t have a prayer. Exceptional customer service and loyalty had been replaced by the desire (and the need) to save money.
While it used to be that most people in a given neighborhood lived at similar socio-economic levels, itâ€™s no longer the case. Unless they tell us, we have no idea how the current economy is affecting our neighbor. It could be that a family who once had plenty is now struggling with barely enough to get by. It might be theyâ€™re dealing with a cut in wages or lost health insurance benefits. Maybe theyâ€™re struggling to hang onto their house. It could also be that stress and tension are wreaking havoc with their marriage. Their sixteen-year-old could be on drugs.
Hereâ€™s my point: We donâ€™t know what we donâ€™t know â€“ and that includes whatâ€™s going on with our friends and neighbors. But we can make a difference. We could serve each other by forging bonds and supporting one another in what are proving to be uncertain times. Moving through present economic shifts coupled with the evolution of technology, we must learn to expect and accept change. Things are never going to be exactly the way they used to be. Certain jobs are not coming back and the lifestyle many enjoyed during the early part of this century may never be restored. As difficult as this is for us in various ways, I believe good will come of all of it.
Plain and simple, moving forward from here, things are going to be different. We can fight it or hang on and enjoy the ride. Instead of banging our heads against the wall and trying to keep things the same in a world thatâ€™s advancing, developing â€“ changing before us, we must learn how to flow with those changes. If we are to survive and thrive, we must be open-minded and willing to risk.
And about those neighborsâ€¦we may never know the extent to which the guy next door or the family around the block is experiencing struggle. Just in case, be patient, be kind and pay it forward whenever you can. Share what you have. Everyone loves happy surprises. Make someoneâ€™s day! Who knows â€“ the guy across the street may be reading this right now and thinking of you.
Judith Cassis, C.Ht. is an author and personal development coach for individuals bouncing back from failure, loss or tragedy. She has a private practice in Valencia and also runs Miracles Mountain Retreat in Pine Mountain, CA, about an hour north of Santa Clarita. Please contact her by Email, Judith@judithcassis.com or visit her website, www.judithcassis.com.