From Newsweek: ‘My Turn: Dinner for Eight’

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Just in case you, faithful reader of this blog, haven’t noticed, I don’t have a very rosy view of the upcoming months and years ahead of us, even if I do believe that, ultimately, humanity will be able to get out of this mess it has created.

Until then, how do we survive as we try to figure out solutions? Here is Alicia S. Rapp’s take on it.

Dinner for Eight, by Alicia S. Rapp (Published November 15th 2008 in Newsweek, from the magazine issue dated Nov 24, 2008)

In a grim year, the one constant has been our meals together. Do they help? They help us hang in there.

A year ago, eight friends began to meet weekly for dinner. We were introduced at church—some of us sang together in the choir, others worked on committees, a few went on a mission trip to Biloxi, Miss., following Hurricane Katrina. But what really brought us together was chemistry, the ease with which we were able to laugh together. That might seem hard to believe when you consider how disparate we are: politically, we are five Democrats, two Republicans, and one honest-to-God registered Independent. Three of us are loudmouthed liberals and two are contrarian conservatives; the others act as referees, reminding us to be respectful.

There is a 16-year difference between the oldest and youngest members of our dinner group. We are engineers, pastors, hairdressers, car-rental agents, construction workers, household managers and ultrasound technicians. We are moms and dads with kids in high school and college; one of our daughters is an Iraq War veteran. Half of us have grandkids and two thirds of us are lucky enough to have our parents still around. Together, we represent a giant slice of the American pie.

Why should you care? One year later, six of us are unemployed. Our group, struck by a divorce, is actually now down to seven. Another marriage is teetering. Severe depression is a daily companion for one weary soul and a dreaded visitor for three or four others. When we call and ask, “How are you doing?” we’re really checking in for a status update: orange alert or red? One family is now on food stamps, largely due to a son’s special needs; another is living on a disability check. One couple is in danger of losing its home to foreclosure, while a second family is living off its home, mortgaged to the teeth to pay for college and, now, groceries. A young man who has struggled up from the misery of an impoverished childhood is frustrated to find that his sparkling new medical certification—acquired with the help of $35,000 in student loans—is practically worthless in this job market. A brilliant, midcareer engineer, living for the last decade in a gated community, is startled to find he can’t provide for his family. Not one of us is eligible for unemployment benefits. We are not counted in the monthly statistics cited on television. We are the new poor.

Read the rest of this touching article here.

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