The economic downturn appears to me as a welcome event, one that is capable of returning our culture to a measure of the resourceful self-reliance long reported by our elders as the good old days, and to the trimming back of our appetites to the benefit of our souls as taught by our spiritual directors. I make this brave statement as a previously employed and dues-paying taxpayer who is now a member of the handicapped, disabled and impoverished underclass. In other words, I have already trimmed back. When I could no longer climb stairs or get around without a walker, I too gave up riding horses, flying airplanes and driving for pleasure -- but I also had to give up personal independence. My cutbacks came a long time before gas prices became an issue and I haven't eaten out, seen a movie (except on DVD) or taken a vacation since well before others my speed slowed down on their shopping sprees. There's no such thing as a weekend off from MS. Accordingly, and long before the economic downturn, I moved back to my rural hometown where prices are cheaper, rents are lower and early retirement doesn't come as such a shock. Family matters, neighborhood means someone notices if you haven't picked up your mail, and going to church makes the difference between despair and discovering that suffering does purify the soul. I pray for those who have lost their jobs, homes, comforts and self-esteem. But still, let's be clear about this -- the stock market crashed because greed took advantage of weakness and the trickle down, ripple out effect from that is what's now chilling our world. Let's also notice one more important point -- a lot of us had already crashed. Half a million of us deal with MS, many more from other neurological impairments and far more than that from cancer, heart disease, crippling injuries and that meanest of all levelers --plain old age. We've already adjusted our lifestyles and cut back on our frivolities. We're already making do, doing without and asking for help -- more often than not without adequate answers. So excuse me if I'm not brimming over with concern that you've had to give up your second car. If you can still walk, as my mother used to say from her wheelchair -- you won't get much sympathy in this house. Welcome to the bottom of the heap. And let the trip teach you all a thing or two about tolerance for the weak and the weary, because you never know when you might have to join us.
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