Hunger and the Depression
- Monday, May 03, 2004
Ever been hungry? Really hungry? Not likely if you're a citizen of these United States and if you are younger than 70. Those who have lived through the 1930s or who are blessed to have lived longer than 70 years will tell you of a period of time known as The Great Depression. And, many of them can tell you, they knew hunger. They did whatever it took to get a meal, even if it meant a full day of back breaking labor just for a loaf of bread. They also learned plenty about having to "make do" with what they had and in the process learned ingenuity, resourcefulness, and frugality. Our present society of luxury could learn a lesson or two.
What was it like between the years of 1930-40? They were years of leanness; years of shortage; years of hunger; years of depression. Granted, different parts of the country were affected differently, but there were hard working people everywhere, grateful for whatever they had, and passing on to the next generation their never-give-up spirit and stick-to-it-iveness. Then came the war which brought with it jobs; jobs brought money; money brought food; food brought relief for the weary.
A war bond sold to the youngest child in Oceanside, California went to a brand new baby named Suzanne Myers in January 1944. That year brought with it hope for the jobless, and jobs for the hopeless. That little baby just turned sixty this year (and just happens to be my mother!) And, she just happens to be the most resourceful person I know. Although she bypassed the Great Depression, she was a by-product of the times, and she learned how to "make do." She can take anything and make something with it. For instance, she can take something as useless as an old shoulder pad and – voila – create cute crafty angel wings, or make her house look like a Victorian magazine cover with thrift store and yard sale junk. She learned from the people around her who had just come through one of the roughest times in our nation's history. Spoken and unspoken mottos among many at the time were, "If you have it, use it up." "If it's in the cupboard, eat it up." "Don't waste anything!" "Eat everything on your plate," or better yet, "CLEAN your plate!" Our present society of waste could learn a lesson or two.
As I studied food from the depression era, it varied from squirrel stew and canned dandelion weeds to poor man's bread. What I also found was that the less people had, the more creative they became. Food that didn't seem edible when they were full, became edible when they were hungry. If they didn't can everything that grew in the summer, they would go hungry in winter. It's the old storing-up idea, and it's a good idea at that. The book of Proverbs says that even the ants store up food for the winter. Most people don't even think about storing up – with maybe the exception of that Y2K scare we had a few years ago and that junk in the garage. We have everything we need for now – fast food, pre-packaged instant meals, and quick made-to-order-whatever-you-please.
Learning from History
We know the war came on the heels of the depression, but what preceded that time? For the sake of chronology, let's take a step back and look at what was going on before those depression years, the 1920s. What were the 1920's like? In my novice speculation, they were years of excess – free fancy – forget about God and His commands and live for today! As the book of Judges repeatedly says, "everyone did what seemed right in his own eyes." I see the same thing mirrored in our day – the same absence of following God's commands and worse yet, legal action for the mere acknowledgement of Him in our society. Man was not only hedonistic, man put his trust in man and what followed was a collapse of man's empires. Does that give us any clue as to what could transpire in the future as we continue to echo that philosophy?
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