Daily, it seems, we hear reports of how the economy is improving; the Dow Jones Industrials have crossed the twenty five thousand mark, earnings are up. Even the jobless picture seems to be improving; less people filing for unemployment this month than last. Economists tell us that a bullish stock market is a “leading economic indicator” of good times to come. There are more jobs yes, but what kind are they and can they pay the bills? Can there really be a recovery if people don’t have the jobs needed to pay their bills and keep their homes? Sure, those of us fortunate to have investments are seeing a huge bump, but can there be any real value in this economy until people are back at work and caring for their families with dignity and promise?
Measuring an economy from only the bottom line is poor economics. The human cost since the Great Recession is greater than the comparative growing wealth of a few. Divorces are on the rise, people are depressed and our state budgets, so deeply dependent on taxes generated from economic growth, is unable to help the many who need it most. The anxiety created by our current administration, the rise in gun violence and worries over our warming planet only add to the failing of our present.
What we really need is a recovery of the human spirit. What we need to be looking and working towards are the “leading human indicators” that our world will not only recover from this fall but grow in deeper and more meaningful ways than how much we consume. What would some of those human indicators look like? Well, some are already evident especially in our congregation. Communities are reaching out to those in need. Not the governments of communities but communities of people united in a faith for a new beginning. This kind of recovery isn’t measurable by domestic output. It shows up in more subtle ways and is often deeply personal. Religious communities, especially, have seen both an increase in attendance but also an increase in giving to meet the needs of those amongst us who are most in need. We have a long way to go but it is a start. Volunteering to help, whether in a community of faith or in the many secular organizations dedicated to compassion would be another indicator that we are moving on. Feeding the hungry, helping a child to read, answering a help line, are all indicators of a real recovery.
I believe that a rebound in the arts might be another sign that we have grown from this crisis. It’s tempting to measure productivity by what we make or build or consume, but there is a deeper economic vitality in celebrating what makes us human. When we support every form of art again, just because it feeds our souls, we will be well on our way to a deeper recovery. Jobs will be created and the Holiness of what is beautiful in this world will be reclaimed.
There are other economies besides the monetary; the barter between friends, the care we show our neighbors that they may one day return to us, and the deep satisfaction that comes from helping another in the name of all that is Holy and good. This has been a remarkable year at TUCW. I have every confidence we will continue to grow and recover.
With Grace and Grit, Rev. John