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MATTER OF OPINION: Make it happy

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By Robin Bass

Remember how it felt as kid when your birthday was a just couple of weeks away? The anticipation was excruciating. All you could do was dream about the cake, and the presents and blowing out those wishing candles.

I can’t wait, you would think (or sometimes even say out loud), I wish it would hurry up and get here!

Upon speaking these words, inevitably some adult would say, “Don’t go wishing your life away.”

Right about now, many of us are less focused on celebrating the approaching New Year and more likely wishing 2008 would simply hurry up and get out of here. We’ve all had enough of this depressing recession. We’re tired of watching the value of our homes and our retirement funds dwindle to a fraction of their worth. We don’t want to hear about another aquaintance who has lost his job. We absolutely do not want to hear about taxes being raised, or corporate executives getting a $10 million bonus (funded by bailout monies) while we are struggle to pay grocery bills (that for some reason have not fallen with gas prices).

Unfortunately, there are no candles to make a wish on in this situation. The flip of the calendar will not magically wash away all the pain and worry we have been experiencing. Like it, or not, Americans are likely destined to more of the same – at least through the end of 2009.

So what’s a person suppose to do in this bleak situation?

Recently, I met a woman and her story nearly brought me to tears. When she met me at the door, she was on the phone with some automated system that was instructing her how to be wise with her money. The woman explained that she was filing bankruptcy and as punishment, I guess, she had to sit through a couple of hours worth of recordings telling her how not to get into that kind trouble again. With the phone still to her ear, the woman pointed to a portrait on the wall. It was of a bearded man, perhaps in his late 40s. He had on a baseball cap and a grin that stretched across his face. I was sure I’d never met the man, but he reminded me of a hundred others I have come across in my lifetime. Hard-working men that fix cars, build homes and generally work by the sweat of their brow.

The woman said the man in the picture was her husband and had never been sick a day in his life – until recently. What they thought was the flu turned out to be some sort of tumor that ruptured. Four days later he was gone and she was left to pick up all the broken pieces.

As she cried, I wanted to embrace the woman and tell her everything was going to be okay. But what do I know?

In today’s paper, there are others with stories of heartbreak and loss. These people have lost much more than money in the stock market. The Brown’s had their home and everything they own taken away, within minutes, by a fire. Martha Sander’s husband was ripped from her life after a tragic car accident.

Real life is not about stock markets and gas prices. It’s about caring for one another and lifting each other up when we fall. Only in helping others do we discover our own blessings.

Happy New Year!