Troubled times are coming. Just as Treebeard saw his world change, so are we about to see ours.

Right now, just before the elections in the USA, I see so many who are afraid. The old bylaws are broken: banks are going bust, world markets are whiplashed. Enormous crowds gather, hypnotized, hoping that a new leader will bolster balance sheets and forestall foreclosures.

You can feel it in the earth; you can feel it in the water; you can smell it in the air.

Bad times are not new. And elections will not change them. The fruits of foolishness must be born, and in a few years, the messiah elected today will be the ousted and disgraced demagogue of tomorrow. This is the nature of idol worship…what was once thought divine becomes
despicable. Hell hath no fury….

But, the flip side of the impotence of the elected is that we can all see where the real power lies, and that is with God and with each other.

The last long lesson of lack was taught to us in the 1970s, when I was in high school. Then there was no such thing as a personal computer, few folk had color TVs, and most new cars were compacts because of skyrocketing oil prices.

My family lived in the country, and since we were only able to pick up a couple of TV stations, we had to make a lot of our own entertainment. We read a lot, but we also gardened, raised dogs and rabbits, collected eggs from the wild chickens that ran in the pastures. We hunted and fished. We wrote stories and drew comics. We gathered muscadines to make jelly, and I tried my hand at making peach wine from the syrup my stepfather brought back from the school lunchroom. This latter attempt ended in a spectacular explosion, and my childhood bedroom to this day smells like fermented peaches when the weather turns wet.

But what I learned during the stag-flated seventies was that it was always more fun to _create_ than to _consume_, to ponder than to be pandered to. It was always more exciting to _give_ than to _get_. But from 1982 on, all the world seems to have forgotten these things. All the world now worships the idol of consumerism, and that idol, like the idol of the messianic politician, will fall.

The best and most important things in life do not require credit cards. They do not require big brazen bureaucracies and multi-billion dollar bailouts. They do not require the clever counsel of a new commander-in-chief.

The best and most important things in life are love of God and love of neighbor. And as the world changes and our credit cards are cancelled, we may find ourselves rediscovering both. We may learn how to once again trust in God to help us through the rough spots. We may learn how satisfying it can be to care for friends and family. We may learn how interesting our neighbors are once layoffs or the need to mow our own grass gives us the time and opportunity to get to know them.

We may, as a result of these changing times, rediscover what Frank Capra and Angelo Pellegrini once taught us: that lean years can be our happiest years, and that bad times can sift souls and feed one’s faith.

The world is changed. The next president will disappoint and disillusion those who worship him now, as all false idols do. And the pain of lost homes and layoffs will certainly be real. But we will be the ones who decide whether these pangs are harbingers of havoc or of healing; of ruin or of rebirth.

May God bless you and yours in the lean and happy years ahead….