Larry Banman: Watching people is a lifetime ticket to the theater of human nature
Without a Doubt
To use the analogy of watching a move, it would certainly appear that the curtains of life are about to raise on a brand new feature ” a feature that could take us into some uncharted and choppy water. The economic uncertainty is certainly at the forefront of the changes that lie ahead. I am not an economic analyst and I was surprised by the amount of turmoil that is being experienced worldwide. Added to the financial unrest is the uncertainty of whom we will elect to be our next president. Even nature seems to be thwarting our desire for something that is remotely predictable.
To me, it is interesting and intriguing to observe how people react to what happens. A phrase I often use while coaching is, “It isn’t what happens that is important, it is how you react to what happens that reveals your character.” The things that happen to us are often out of our direct control. How we react is something over which we do have control. In the current economic climate, I am interested in what Wall Street is doing, but I am intrigued by the reactions of people to what has been happening in the stock market.
There is the direct cause and effect of what has happened over the past few weeks in the financial world. People can see how their college funds and 401(k) retirement accounts have suffered and most of us realize we have lost quite a bit of equity in our homes and businesses. I have heard that the loan process is a bit more stringent, but I haven’t experienced that firsthand. The people I know are not quite ready to cash in those retirement or education funds so they are uneasy, but hoping time will allow their investments to recover. I also don’t know a lot of folks who are drastically upside down with their mortgages. Kremmling was apparently not a hotbed for the sub-prime loan market.
Likely, the next effect we will notice will be a slight rise in unemployment. We are a community that relies heavily on the construction trade and the service trade. Both may be hit by slowdowns. It won’t be like the dotcom bust in the Silicon Valley or the closing of an automobile plant in Michigan but more than a few of us may see a change in employment. However, I believe we are a resilient community that has shown the ability to withstand adversity and even shine when the chips are down. I remember the concern when the Louisiana-Pacific waferboard plant closed and people thought we would become another convenience store stop on the way to somewhere else. Certainly some families were uprooted and many had to find other jobs, but the community survived and even, some would say, thrived in the post L-P days.
People watching is more than being nosy about your neighbors. It can be an avenue used to help people when they are in need. One of the phenomena about adversity is that it tends to bind people together. My son-in-law and I have extensive talks about what would happen if there were a total breakdown of the structure of our society. He leans toward chaos and anarchy. I believe there would be some initial “unrest” but order would naturally be restored. What would probably fascinate me the most is who would emerge as the leaders after the existing leadership structure was rendered moot. There are some who believe it would be those with the most ammunition. I believe it would be the people who generated hope and instilled confidence.
Other than being fascinating, history should be something from which we glean lessons. For those of us over 40, there is a pretty close parallel to what we are experiencing right now. In 1980, interest rates were near 20 percent and getting a loan was out of the question for many, many people. People were disenchanted with the current president, Iran was holding American citizens as hostages and even Jimmy Carter talked about a malaise that had taken hold of the American people. Into that mix stepped Ronald Reagan who campaigned on the fundamental principles of: lower taxes to stimulate the economy, less governmental interference in peoples’ lives, state’s rights and a strong national defense. Now, if we argue over the effectiveness or even the correctness of those principles, we will get bogged down in politics. My point is that he delivered his message with an optimism and confidence that was infectious, primarily because it was genuine. I believe that positive message from the top helped to restore people’s confidence that things were going to be alright.
I was in a church service in Fort Collins on Sunday and I got to hear one of my favorite speakers, Jeff Lucas, who happens to be from England. He often makes good-natured jabs about language and cultural differences. On Sunday, he confessed to an absolute love for the American people. That affection and appreciation was borne from the kindness and consideration he and his family has received in America for many, many years. You could feel a shift in the attitude of the audience. Too often, we are told that we are the problem. And, with many of the institutions and the economic system we have come to trust in trouble, it doesn’t take long for the fingers of blame to be pointed. When Lucas made that comment, you got the sense that people started to think beyond the money they had lost and the jobs which might become endangered. We started to think about what is good about people.
I expect those types of thought patterns to continue. After the initial panic and worry pass, I believe people tend to think about solutions and about resolutions. Adversity has a wonderful way of bringing focus to core issues. Superfluous issues tend to fade into oblivion. It is at that point of thought that I truly enjoy observing the theater of life.
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