"In this economy..." is rapidly climbing my chart of Top 10 Social Disclaimers that Should Be Stricken From the English Language for Overuse and Abuse. Seriously, it's about to replace "Now more than ever..." and that's saying a lot. These phrases get bandied about willy nilly, and generally get attached to the front of any sentence that you want to excuse in advance for being obnoxious or selfish or xenophobic or just about anything involving duct tape and bottled water. Any sentence begun with this phrase will automatically send me to a place in my head that plays my favorite songs on repeat. Your lips are moving, but I can't hear what you're saying. It just looks like you're lip-syncing to "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and that amuses me. That's why I'm smiling and nodding along. I have a serious problem with cliché to begin with, and I find social disclaimers to be among the most despicable forms. If you have something obnoxious to say, say it. Don't hide behind a mindlessly repeated talking point or try to excuse it or make it seem somehow all right under the circumstances. So, "in this economy..." is about to be stricken from my lexicon forever. But first! Some advice from my mother:
My mom is one of the best teachers I know. With a career spanning 40 years, she has seen every trend in education come and go and come around again. One time she told me her trick to classroom management: "Your classroom is like a government. The teacher, as the leader, gets to determine the 'currency of the kingdom'. If you trade in positive reinforcement and excitement for learning, the students will learn to do the same." This advice has also saved me from many temper tantrums (my own) over the last several years of parenting. What is the currency of my household? Do we trade in mutual respect and kind words? Do we give these things to each other without reservation? What is the currency of your household?
In this economy... I will choose to give liberally and without regret to those who need it without judging their circumstances.
In this economy... I will also choose to give liberally and without regret even to those who I don't think need it.
In this economy... I will spend my energy developing relationships and experiences; not accumulating possessions.
In this economy... I will get to know my neighbors and my community. I will not be isolated by fear or apathy.
In this economy... I will not adopt positions or ideas just because they are oft-repeated or popular. I will choose to think for myself.
In this economy... I will not participate in gossip or slander of anyone, whether they are a public figure or a private individual, because that only divides and hurts.
In this economy... I will plant flowers and bake bread because they smell good and because they remind me of things like delayed gratification, growth, and getting my hands dirty.
In this economy... I will tell people the nice things I think about them, whether I think they need it or not.
In this economy... I will continue to enter (and lose) local contests and events because it forces me to expose myself and get to know new people in ways I wouldn't otherwise.
In this economy... I will listen carefully to the stories of others. I will not judge based on appearance, my pre-ordained pigeonholes or stereotypes. I will constantly be surprised.
In this economy... I will turn off the "news" and turn up the music.
In this economy... I will express gratitude, both loudly and inwardly, for the goodness that surrounds me: in nature, in other people, in the things I have, in the lessons I've learned, in the challenges I face, in the silliness of life.
In this economy... I will take responsibility for my choices, my actions and my words. I will also give myself and others the grace to make mistakes.
In this economy... I will play nicely and share.
In this economy... my kids' inheritance will be love for themselves and others, an appreciation for hard work, thankful hearts, faith, and a sense of their many-splendored gifts and how they can use them to change their worlds.
What is our country, if not a conglomeration of all sorts of households? Join the revolution! What's your new economy?
*Photos courtesy of the inimitable Thomas Poarch. The figures are of part of an installation by Tom Otterness in the 14th St subway at 8th Ave in NYC. Should you ever be in the Big Apple, you should check both Toms out. Also, am I allowed to say "Big Apple"? I'm not sure about this.