April 2009 - Black Love: Battling Economic and Emotional Recession

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It was just a few months ago that we all sat glued to the television as newly elected President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle danced the first dance in a series of inaugural balls.  A handsome couple - demonstrating Black love for all to see.  They had stood together-strong-through the ups and downs, and now they were celebrating their triumph.  And we were celebrating with them-proud beyond words.

Fast-forward to April, 2009 and the realities of the economic recession have hit many of us where we feel it most-lost jobs, lost income, lost homes, lost hope.   Everywhere you look, bleak economic news.  It’s no wonder that many couples are beginning to feel the stress to the point that it’s straining some of the most steadfast relationships.

I was watching television today and a popular talk show was analyzing a couple whose marriage had reached the breaking point because the man had lost his job.  He could no longer afford to pay the bills.  They were not only moving out of the house they once owned, the wife was planning to file for divorce. The television psychologist was analyzing what the man was going through and how the couple could survive the wife’s anger and disappointment in her husband’s financial dilemma.   I’ve seen a lot of this on television lately.

I must admit that I am somewhat perplexed, because for so many years, when African-American men were unable to provide for their families--often for legitimate reasons like the impact of racism denying them adequate education or employment, there were no empathetic psychologists on television talking about the toll this takes on someone’s self esteem.  Black women did not have the luxury of whining and sympathy seeking-they simply picked up the load and did the heavy lifting necessary to take care of the family.  Perhaps there is a lesson to learn from this-but that’s another column.

What I hope Black couples who are caught up in this economic storm will realize is that what you do for a living does not define who you are.  All the “stuff” that you own does not define you or your self-worth.  What defines you is character-how you react in a crises, how you love your partner and your children, how you treat your friends. Are you honest, do you stay the course-no matter how difficult?  Will your children look back on these times and remember them as the time your family came apart, or will they remember this as the time that you displayed values of strength and love?  The time that you demonstrated those aspects of your character that are rock steady-through good times and bad. And that you held onto the really valuable things-love, laughter, and each other.

By no means am I discounting the importance of money-we all have bills to pay and the loss of a job through no fault of your own is a traumatic experience.  But it can also be a chance to reaffirm those things that are valuable, but have no price.  We have a saying at my house-“if you can get it with money, it’s cheap.” The really valuable things in life do not cost money.  They are the priceless treasures of everyday living-a smile, a hug, faith, love, family, friends, a positive mental attitude, words of encouragement,  and a belief that things will eventually get better. President and Mrs. Obama have sent a strong message and demonstrated a valuable lesson, i.e., a strong loving couple can survive the tough times and triumph!!

With you on your journey to wellness...
Dr. Mary S. Harris


0 Earle 2009-05-07 16:54
Dr. Harris,

Thank you for a very introspective dose of reality in hard times. Many of us have lost our families, and are at breaking points, or have already broke. None-the-less, it is the manner in which we persevere though these times that define who we truly are. Your column is appreciated.

Thank You,

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