The many items listed are revealing in the vast range of things that people prioritize, and also underline how we come to value different things depending on the stage of life we're at. Thus, for every correspondent who states that they're "not giving up my Corvette or selling my diamond," there's another who is doing whatever it takes to ensure their child can continue attending private school, having witnessed "the Seattle school district fail my 11 African-American godchildren one by one."
Obviously, there are degrees to which people are willing to suffer or sacrifice, and the article makes the point that the variety of reader responses "demonstrate the difference between being knocked back by the economy and being really poor."
One of the most telling points the article makes is about how the ability to continue living our lives as they were despite the disruption caused by a layoff can be crucial to our state of mind. Thus, "a cup of a coffee in a cafe can buy a bit of dignity as well as normalcy." If you've ever been in the position where you've walked in (or by) a restaurant or coffee shop only to realize that you don't have the funds to partake of something you've become accustomed to enjoying in your life, you'll recognize the inherent humiliation that statement encapsulates. It's important, though, to recognize that there are always new things to be discovered and enjoyed, and from which that sense of wellbeing and dignity—of having a place to occupy in society—can be derived. For the final correspondent in the piece, those are "ice cream cones on a summer afternoon" rather than full-blown meals in a restaurant.
Finding those silver linings is one of the greatest challenges of dealing with an employment setback, and that ability may yet prove to be one of the most lasting effects of this recession. Long after it's over (and by "over" I mean when the unemployment rate isn't downright frightening), there will still be a generation of people out there who have had to confront the unpleasant realities of getting by with less. That, in this writer's humble opinion, is one of the greatest silver linings of all—learning to overcome challenges and look at the world in a new light, finding pleasure and value in simpler things. Unlike most of the discretionary spending we do when times are good, that ability is something that can last a lifetime.
That said, this wouldn't be a Pink Slipped post without a call for you to get involved (even if we are stealing the idea—if not the thunder—from Slate!). Drop us a line in the comment box to let us know what purchases you absolutely can't live without (or at least will be the last things to go before you have to make a choice between that and eating or paying rent). Maybe it's the little indulgences like the aforementioned cup of gourmet-quality coffee. Maybe it's something bigger, like the mortgage payments on a vacation home. Whatever it is, we'd love to hear it and get a snapshot of the things you value; after all, there's no time like a crisis for figuring out what those truly are.
--Posted by Phil Stott, Vault Staff Writer
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