Boy, how things have changed in my lifetime. Not long prior to my birth, if an individual happened to get hurt at work, got fired, or the job was just lost, you were on your own. No unemployment insurance, no health care, no food stamps, only thing available might be the churches and other social networks within the country. If you got old, either you had money enough to live or your family helped or you worked until you died. The government did not have all these so called social nets to keep us from having to make due with what we had. We had a lot of poor in our country, as in the world, but those who were poor still seemed to have at least a modicum of self help and did what was necessary to exist. Yes, there were those who sold apples or pencils on the corner, but they did what they had to and gave up what they had to so they could live independently. No help from Uncle Sam, only what you and your family could do for you and your neighbors.
And speaking of neighbors, everyone who saw someone in a dire situation would immediately jump in and see what they could do to help. Many canned and did other things to preserve food of one kind or another. Joe Black is on hard times and needs help so you give him and his family some of your excess canned goods. You bake bread, so make a loaf or two more for your needy neighbor. Having a pig or cow butchered? Well, surely there will be some of that you can let your neighbor who is in need have, and you would seldom hesitate to so do. The Great Depression had started to end and World War II managed to pretty well take care of that little problem. Workers were needed badly so everyone who wanted a job got one.
My grandfather on my dad’s side lived to be 96 and worked right up to a couple or so years prior to his death. He may not have been able to do much, but he sure did what he could. In fact, I will always remember he fell out of the hay loft at 86 and took a couple of days off before going back to the farm. How many of us today would do anything like that? I remember many times my grandmother Abernathy would, even though she had little, be sure her friends and neighbors had food on the table even if she found it necessary to cut down a little on her own food preparation.
People at this time had the desire to not be on welfare of any type. Many would hide the fact that they in reality had nothing in the cupboard. It was something of a stigma to be in need even if you were not the reason for the problem. It was socially unacceptable to be on welfare, although some even then managed to make the best of it. If you needed something you worked for it. Few things other than the home and car were not paid for when purchased. No credit cards, which I feel are one of the major problems of today. So cash was usually the name of the game for everyone at this time. Society of today is one of credit and that can be something of a problem for some.
There was a feeling of family for most everyone in town and the country. If you got hurt your friends and neighbors came to you to help. If you were a farmer your friends and neighbors would help you with your crops and harvesting, as you would if the sides were changed. People helped each other, some covertly others openly. The attitude and desires of the recipient were foremost. If one was too proud to allow others to know his situation those who could help would honor his wishes, but still help.
People cared for each other primarily because no one else would. The government was not too much involved until the New Deal and the Great Depression and its aftermath.
I feel society as a whole has lost that feeling of neighborhood, of assistance to those worse off than you are. As I age I miss these things and many others too, but I really miss the feeling, the desire for and the need for family. Divorce was a huge stigma to the individual as well as the family as a whole. Today, divorce seems to be nothing more than something one has a 50/50 chance of going through. We didn’t abort openly, although I am sure some were done under the table; not like today, where clinics just for that are available.
We have, as a society, changed so much in my lifetime I am very concerned about how it will be in my children and grandchildren’s lifetime. Are we as a society losing our compassion and desire to help those who are in need? And we are seemingly willing to allow someone else, preferably the government, do whatever is needed for us.
One thing I love about Rush County is that we are not as bad as many areas about this. We still do, in places, have that neighborly attitude of my youth. Many have no desire for any more government in our lives; there is enough of that already. I am so happy we are a rural farming community, one that possibly is still old-fashioned, but people care.