Yes, it’s tough out there and the wind has not shifted yet. Since there is no economic weather forecast that is reliable, we have to accept this financial debacle and find ways to continue to manage our lives creatively and successfully.
It would be great if there was a magic potion to clear the negative fumes but our resilient attitude will be our best tool. Maintaining your dignity and optimism and building a personal well of happiness is important.
Ian Thiermann at age 90 lost all of his retirement savings, over $700 thousand dollars, in the Madoff scheme but refuses to dwell on the negative. He has launched himself again after 25 years of retirement and now works for $10 an hour, 30 hours a week, as a greeter at a local grocery store where he was a regular customer. This initiative was made possible by Ian’s positive attitude and acceptance as well as the smarts of the store management to recognize the value of inspiration to others. Ian and his wife refuse to be depressed; instead they are focused on gratitude for the support of friends and family around them.
How are artists responding? Brooklyn artist Geoffrey Raymond is 55 years old and, less than 2 years ago, the former PR executive reinvented himself by seizing the Wall Street collapse to generate a new business. He paints oversized portraits of fallen CEOs and then positions himself with his work outside their headquarters. He offers Sharpie markers to those passing by to write their comments on the canvas; employees get a colored marker and an unaffiliated person gets a black one. Geoffrey has painted portraits of Richard Fuld (Lehman Brothers), James Cayne (Bear Stearns), Hank Greenberg (AIG), Rupert Murdoch (News Corp) and others to capture people’s attention and give them a place to vent their thoughts. Not surprising this has also captured the attention of the media as well as buyers on eBay where his paintings sometimes start at an opening bid of $5,000. And there is a report of a well heeled employee with a strong sense of humor paying $10,000 for a portrait right there on the street.
An economy meltdown is hard to visualize but artists Marshall Reese and Nora Ligorano created just that. The ECONOMY ice sculpture called mainstream meltdown certainly provokes conversation. Purposefully staged in New York City on 10/29, the 79th anniversary of the stock market crash, it had a pristine elegance in its 1600 pounds of ice that measured 15 to 20 ft across and about 5 feet high. Yet it was doomed; it could not last 20 hours and was an economy meltdown disintegrating right before your eyes.
The economy is down but community service is up. Doing good is becoming trendy. There has been a recent rise in non profit start ups, a new surge of interest in volunteerism and an increase of applications to work at non profits. People are stirred to reach out and infuse positive energy in a negative environment. It is difficult for a young person graduating college to look for a job when the market is weak and competition is strong. That situation has stirred some to take a strategic leap and join the Peace Corps upon graduation because they will learn a lot, give a lot and by the end of their two year assignment hopefully the economy will have improved. Even corporations whose stock prices have tanked realize the value of community service from an inside and outside perspective. It feels good to the people making a difference and it looks good to the community and to the public. According to the January 16, 2009 Verizon Press Release, “In 2008, Verizon employees volunteered more than 607,000 hours to 5,169 nonprofit organizations. The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon, supports employee volunteerism by awarding a $750 grant to a nonprofit organization when a Verizon employee volunteers 50 hours or more to the organization during the year.”
At Civic Ventures (http://www.civicventures.org), their studies find that “Half of all Americans age 50 to 70 want work that helps others. A full 50 percent are interested in taking jobs now and in retirement that help improve quality of life in their communities.”
Heather Gee, Vice President for Development and Donor Services at Women’s Philanthropy Network in Philadelphia says that the group of volunteers at a recent event believe that
“.. .women who have a common interest to give back to the community will make this world a better place and really create positive change. They believe in the power of women working together to change lives and save lives.”
In this difficult time, it is important to realize one’s own strength and resources to change internally and to give externally. Creative resilience is not an option, it is a necessity.
Be the change that you want to see in the world. (Ghandi)
--By Judith Zausner