The Great Depression: I get it!

Did you have parents or grandparents who came of age and worked (or tried to) in the 1930s?

I did, and I wasn’t patient in hearing those stories.

I listened to my mother, trained as a music performer and teacher, speak of the dreariness of small town music programs, with school boards who didn’t want to pay, with parents who didn’t see the value in playing an instrument, having to be content with the occasional talented student who actually got it.

I used to ask her why she didn’t leave those jobs, head back to a bigger city and work in a more sophisticated and appreciative setting.

You have to understand, the depression was on.

My father was a clergyman, trained in ancient languages as well as theology, who had grown accustomed to scholarly conversations with friends who enjoyed delving into the mysteries of language, literature, and religion. He, too, was frustrated with the folks in his tiny churches, who didn’t see why they had to pay him if there was a fifth Sunday in the month – he should just show up there and work for nothing.

I asked him why he stuck it out in such places.

Well, the depression was on and there weren’t any other jobs.

I look back with embarrassment on how little I understood of those times. I wondered why they weren’t more assertive, why they put up with ignorance, why they let their gifts languish in mediocrity, why they spoke so bitterly of those times.

Now I get it. Today, I read that the Washington National Cathedral is cutting its staff by 30%. Libraries may cut their hours or their staff. School systems may drop subjects and activities that attract the smallest numbers of participants.

With these dismal omens around us, it is hard to remember that we are gifted people, that we have unique skills to share with the world. It is hard to remember that laughter and creativity can bring people together. And most of all, it is hard to remember that you have choices in your career path.

True, you may have to take a job, a position that does not thrill you or stimulate you. It is honorable to work for sustenance, but it is also honorable to remember who you are and what you are capable of achieving.

Our plans and dreams may be put on hold while we support ourselves and our families, but we are still taking steps in that direction. One of these days, opportunities will return. I hope you will not be dragged down by bitterness. If you would like to speak with a career counselor about your dreams and the steps needed to achieve them, please visit for contact information. I’d love to hear from you.

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