With so many disturbing events in the news and alarming changes in America in recent years, I’d like to talk about the importance of three pillars that can give us strength to survive whatever the future holds – faith, hope and love. While it’s the Christmas season, these three pillars apply to everyone, so if you’re not religious or not Christian, don’t go running off thinking this is going to be a preachy religious post, because it’s not.
I’ve been fascinated with leadership since I was young, wondering why some people seem to stand out as the person to follow in every group. Even with groups of kids, there always seems to be a leader who emerges. Sure, there are plenty of books devoted to leaders and leadership, often dissecting good leadership traits from bad ones, but for me I’ve always been interested in why people not only follow a leader, but why we seem to need leaders. For me a good leader puts the best interests of those he/she leads above his/her own interests and needs.
Still that leaves the question of what leaders offer and even ones with very flawed characters, I believe, offer some degree of faith, hope, and love (or at least acceptance within the group). One of the most alarming aspects of recent years is as crises hit, Americans automatically hunker down in partisan camps and bicker about each other. We don’t seem to have any leaders, political, religious, or even pop culture icons, who offer any sort of vision that we can all believe in (faith). There’s no one offering any truly hopeful messages either, but many pay lip service to sound bites and hollow slogans that fit their own agenda. Worse is many of our political leaders are dedicated to fanning the flames to divide Americans. And last we don’t see any examples of leaders who put the needs of others before their own political or monetary interests.
At the same time as we’re facing all these uncertain times and uncharted changes, due to decades of cultural, economic, and massive technological changes, most Americans don’t experience the same type of community life as even 25 years ago and even more unsettling for millions of people is often families are spread out and as the political polarization has deepened, it’s now seeped down to creating discord even within many families.
So, how do we begin the process of making any positive changes in our own life, within our families and communities?
I wrote some posts on my views on “prepping,” but I still don’t really think of myself as a “prepper” and I haven’t adopted the prepper lingo in my thought processes. I prefer to think in the same terms I always have – doing things that I think make sense for planning for the future. I rank having money saved for the future and emergencies as more important than having a whole lot of fancy prepper gear, but I do believe in stocking up on food, water, basic tools and supplies. I can’t predict the future, so I like having money saved to hopefully help in unforeseen emergencies that happen most often – things breaking in my home or car, weather emergencies and other family type emergencies.
While there are many prepper and homesteading people online who offer great advice, lists and tips on what supplies to buy, I am never going to urge people to go buy anything. I spent a lot of time volunteering with Army family support activities and the American Red Cross, I don’t want to suggest people run out and buy this item or that item, because the main thing I learned is every family situation is different.
Here’s the hard truth, the most common feature I observed was financial chaos and there’s no “go stock up on soup” or “go stock up on dried beans” that’s going to make people adequately prepared for emergencies until they tackle the financial chaos in their own life. I don’t think trying to become a prepper, like people who post photos of their amazing, vast food storage or gigantic food hauls online is sensible if your personal finances are already a train wreck or you’re struggling to pay your bills.
Tackling personal finances takes commitment to getting rid of debt and/or accumulating new debt, and making some effort to cut expenses. Unless people have this basic part of “being prepared” mastered, all their other buying prepping supplies will likely be as haphazard as their finances. That may sound cold and harsh, but that’s what I believe after my experiences. The caveat to this is I have known many people with very small incomes who slowly build up emergency food and supplies, while still living within their means.
Being prepared starts with being responsible and making careful, thoughtful financial decisions, not with shopping for preps.
That isn’t to say we shouldn’t all try to help people who made bad money decisions and need food or other assistance or stop pushing preparedness, it’s just that where a lot of the prepper community seems to start is with the shopping part and focusing on “preps,” when there’s a whole lot of more important things – like developing a preparedness mindset, having some sort of plan (goals) for yourself and your family, and building as much of a stable lifestyle foundation as you can. There’s also the critical need to acquire skill sets.
I think we should spend more time building our own family “survival” plan and that has to start with a serious assessment of family needs, family finances, family goals and then seeing how much can be put toward extra supplies and deciding which supplies are a priority. I know that when I go shopping without a list and a spending limit for that shopping trip, I invariably buy things that later I think weren’t wise purchases. If you’re going to work on shopping out of concern about shortages, at the very least, it’s prudent to inventory your pantry and supplies, then assess and prioritize what you need. Then make a list.
With being financially responsible usually comes learning some useful skill sets along the way. Even better is by learning to delay instant gratification, learning a bit of frugality, and working hard toward goals comes a goal-oriented mindset, not just adopting “prepping” as a hobby. Homesteaders learn the survival mindset quickly, because of the constant hard work and daily routine required to take care of animals, crops and still having to take care of their families too.
In several of my posts on preparedness, I wrote about my belief in acquiring skill sets and I’ve got a long list of new skills I plan to learn in the near future and some old skills I want to work on too. Along with the learning skill sets, I keep reading and trying to learn more.
As a kid I loved reading stories of people who survived in the most challenging situations, from explorers to wartime, to people who overcame devastating personal tragedies. I’ve also always loved American frontier stories, from the first American settlers to the settling of the West. American history is filled with stories of people surviving in the most extreme circumstances. Perhaps working to develop a little bit of the resilient American pioneer spirit would serve us better.
It would be wonderful if America had leaders who would try to inspire, motivate and try to guide people toward becoming more focused, more dedicated to helping others, and more grounded in a belief in faith, hope and love, but we don’t have any leaders like that.
That doesn’t mean we should all give up or live in constant fear or dread. It also doesn’t mean we should run around trying to buy every last item we can think of to stock up on, in fear things will get much worse or the economy will collapse. Finding that hope and love really brings me back to faith. Faith takes a bit of personal courage and the biggest obstacle to faith, in my opinion, is fear. Once I stop letting fear guide my thoughts and actions, I automatically feel more hopeful and when I talk to people who aren’t doom and gloomers, well, it’s not like they are blind to the bad stuff going on all around, it’s that they’ve made the decision to not let it stop them from plodding onward and leading their own lives. I pray and that helps me find some inner peace, but if religion isn’t your thing, some people find meditation useful.
As someone who is by nature an incessant worrier and “worst casing everything,” working on a positive attitude takes a lot of work, but when I start listening to a lot of “the sky is falling” news or advice, well, I learned to step away from that. It’s a constant work in progress to keep a positive attitude if you’re prone to worrying or anxiety, but it’s worth the effort. In a previous post I said I believe in keeping my home functioning as normally as possible – no matter what else is going on. Keeping control over my own home and not letting fear take over matters to me and I think it’s better for kids to have a home that’s a shelter of calm and normalcy, even in a crisis.
Despite no national leadership in sight, each of us can become leaders. First take charge of yourself and that means stop letting fear drive your actions and take responsibility for your own problems. Next take leadership over your own home and if you and your family are functioning fine, then look outward to perhaps trying to lead some efforts in your church, community or even online.
Yes, I know it sounds so easy, but truly it’s a daily effort to keep putting one foot in front of the other and staying focused with so much constant news media hysteria, alarming “new normal” craziness in our lives since Covid arrived and loud background noise that comes with social media. Setting more personal goals and cutting back on social media time are on my list of priorities.