Rebuilding Oregon – one family at a time

Submitted by Kay Helbling


Lean times are here. Tougher times may be coming, so I decided it was time to seek the sage advice of my elders who actually lived through the days of the Great Depression. Wisdom that can only come from years of experience, their words fed me with insight that went beyond dollars and cents. Their words inspired me with a renewed sense of optimism.


You see, having our world turned upside down could be just what we need to rebuild Oregon and America, but it needs to be done one family at a time. We  need to think differently on just about everything. But, in return, we could find the very foundations upon which the greatness of America was built and can once again return. We can find a society of people who are healthier physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. A society that asks what we can do for ourselves, rather than what can be done for us.


Following the model of the folks who lived through those hard times will seem foreign. Most families today have never known what it is to be without the things they want, much less the things they need. We’d need to think differently on how we eat, how we are entertained, how we work and how we are inspired. But, it can be done and…without depending upon the almighty dollar to define who we are as a society.


Let’s start with how we eat. “Think soup. It can be packed with nutrition, go a long way, and the variety is endless,”says Ida, who even recalls being fed  raisin soup! Oatmeal is cheaper and healthier than the $4/boxed cereal. Restaurants should be for special occasions rather than a weekly event.


“Cook more from fresh rather than buying prepared foods,” said my mom, Leona. “Prepare recipes with less expensive options. Cut back on the expensive ingredients. It’s not only cheaper, but it’s healthier.” I had no idea she’d been feeding us cookies with half the sugar and one less egg all these years. “That trick worked, but there were boundaries I couldn’t cross” she said. “With our family it was dried milk. You kids were to smart to fall for that one.”


Use that back yard for growing fresh vegetables. For about the price of a bag of frozen carrots, peas, and beans, you can purchase enough seeds to grow vegetables to can or freeze to last the winter. For the younger folks, a garden provides wonderful opportunities to learn that everyone in the family must and can do their part.


Starting with the understanding that money needs to be used for necessities, not luxuries, let’s talk clothes. It’s time we rethink their importance in our life and as a measure of who we are. They’re just clothes folks!!! The new malls need to be resale consignment shops and used clothing outlets. For those who can’t break free of name brands, the new credit is layaway. Fabric stores can give girls the opportunity to express themselves in the creativity of their design rather than the name on the label.  


The depth of the ties in families can be measured by the amount of laughter they have shared. For entertainment, save the huge costs of cable, video games and movies. Recapture the simple joys of getting together with family and friends to shoot marbles, play scrabble, sing around a piano, dance to the tunes of your mother-in-law’s accordion, or just sit and visit.


Organized sports need a reality check. The cost to play should not include new uniforms each year, nor should it require huge fees to cover administration costs. Schools need to be a place to earn academic scholarships not athletic careers. For many students, after school activities may need to be redirected to part-time jobs rather than batting practice.


“For families in which the primary bread winner has lost his/her job, everybody in the family needs to go to work,” says Leona, “even if it’s a little job, with little pay.” “Make the best out of what you get. Make due with less, and know that a better job will come,” added Don. For families to build a strong work ethic and a variety of job skills will not only help them sustain, it will be the backbone of a revitalized, stronger and more productive work force upon which a new and vibrant economy can be built.


Finally, at no cost at all, we can as a family, worship, pray, and give thanks for our health, our families and the love we share.


Kay was an insurance adjuster and executive for 15 years, a small business owner and a teacher for 10. But, her most fulfilling work has been as a mother of her two boys. She is now looking forward to an empty nest with her best friend—her husband.


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