I worked for many years in higher-education as a professor and as a fundraiser. The financial markets were rising, and so were transfers of wealth by generous individuals to nonprofit causes including education and hospitals. But by the close of the 1990’s and into the 2000’s, things began to change. The earnings of the middle class had been stagnate since the 1970’s, but now it was beginning to show in the decline of discretionary giving. And although wealthy individuals could and often made large donations, it was the middle class who made up the bulk of annual giving dollars. And they were on the decline big time. And then came the 2008 Great Recession.
That’s when I realized that the economic world we once knew had shifted quite dramatically. Pointedly, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton came out with a big, bright red “Reset” button. There were and are still many who are profiting nicely during the ongoing economic crisis, but there are far more who are not. I realized the economic crisis is vastly different than the ups and downs of recession that we had known before. It is global: what happens in Greece has an impact in America; what happens in Japan has an impact in America.
So I began to look for a way to understand this “new normal.” And much to my surprise it was fun and easy. I found and watched terrific programs that helped me understand the policies, laws and regulations that were being discussed in the desire to balance what we want for ourselves and what we want to achieve together as a nation. The headlines began to make sense. I found individuals and groups who are having fun bringing together helpful information. Before, I downloaded apps that entertained but didn’t inform, now I download apps that keep track of Congressional voting and legislative bills under consideration. I comment on blogs that discuss the balance between our individual desire to have cheap goods and the social consequences of those decisions. Each day brings excitement and fulfillment as I recognize that I have a profound role to play as a citizen.
I’m more joyful and content. I’m a participant in this democracy in ways that are meaningful and heard. It’s my key to happiness in these unprecedented times. With this new re-alignment in thinking, I’ve gained community and peace of mind. Now when folks ask me, “Whatcha doin’?” I say, “Participating in democracy and letting my voice be heard.” “Whatcha doin’?”