OK. So the Dow Jones index has plunged nearly 500 points as I sit down to write this. The U.S. economy is clearly in a recession now as stock values have dropped close to 20% since last fall - the big red flag in every economist‘s handbook that indicates a recession‘s presence. In fact, stock markets all over the world are getting slammed this week - London‘s fell nearly 5.5%, Germany‘s dropped 7.16%, Japan‘s is off 3.86%, and even China watched stock values slide over 5%. It‘s clearly bad all over.
But I am going to push all that off to the side for a moment, because, frankly, the worth of humanity isn‘t tied up in stocks, bonds, indexes and other numbers. Sure, they make life easier or harder - depending on which way the balances swing - but they don‘t determine who and what we are, especially in moments of crisis. Will we panic? Will we stand on the sidelines and watch? Or will we cinch the belts a little tighter and get ready to dig ourselves out of this mess?
Me, I vote for option three for I see it in operation much of the time. Here‘s a small example from this morning. A woman gets a flat tire out near my youngest daughter‘s preschool. I stop to help out. Before a few minutes have passed, so does a Fairfax County police officer. He puts on his emergency lights to warn traffic, then without pause begins to change her tire. He could have told me to do it, could have let her husband do it (he arrived in short order after his wife called him via cellphone). But he just jumped in and got it done - see problem, apply solution, wipe hands, have a nice day. Fairfax‘s finest at work.
Stuff like that, even though it‘s small scale, helps keep my faith in humankind at a high level. In fact, it goes on pretty frequently all over the world - neighbor helping neighbor, stranger helping stranger - but of course that isn‘t dramatic enough for TV or print journalism these days.
There are exceptions, of course: The Washington Post wrote a nice front-page story a while back (above the fold no less!) about two twin doctors who - on their own - flew to Afghanistan in a plane they rented, choked full of supplies bought on their nickel, to provide medical services in the dusty remote villages of that mountainous war-torn country. They got robbed, they got threatened, they even had to beg for protection from local drug lords so they could help people they didn‘t even know.
So, yes, we‘ve got some very tough days ahead as the global economy is poised for backward slide that a lot of well-paid experts didn‘t think would happen. But there‘s enough resilience and willing hands out there to help us get through them.