Posts Tagged ‘the economy’

By Shannon Penrod

It snowed yesterday.  That may not seem like a very big deal to most of the world, but I live in Southern California, in the Northern suburbs of Los Angeles.  Snow here is the equivalent of frogs raining from the sky in Alabama; we’ve all heard that it’s happened before but seeing it in your life time…well, it’s nothing short of miraculous.  We’re not talking flurries, it snowed, as in I needed a shovel to get down my stairs last night.  I didn’t have one.  No one in Southern California owns a shovel, they don’t even sell them here.

The thing that was truly amazing was the way my neighbors reacted.  My family recently moved to an apartment complex that can only be described as the United Nations meets economic downturn.  This is the apartment complex that no one aspires to live in.  It’s not horrible, don’t get me wrong, but it is transient.  This is the place you rent when you have no where else to go on short notice, the leases are 10 month because no one plans on staying.  At one time I think it was meant for people who were waiting for their newly built houses to be completed, now it is the stop off for those of us affected by foreclosure. 

I remember house shopping with my husband six years ago.  The market was insane, homes were so expensive that even a small shack in the suburbs of Los Angeles was a cool half a million dollars.  We had a new baby. Neither of us saw how it could work so we continued to rent. Shortly after that our son was diagnosed with Autism and all thought of buying a home was gone.  In a weird way it was a blessing, we would have bought on the bubble and been in huge trouble; instead we rented.  No foreclosure issues for us, right?  I can hear God laughing in the background.  We have had to move twice in the last year because we have had two landlords  lose their homes to foreclosure.  That is how we have come to live in the land of international foreclosure.

As I walk through our apartment complex I am treated to multicultural sounds and smells of families trying to recover from this economic disaster.  I hear Spanish, French, Russian, Cantonese and even a little English as people enter and exit their apartments and I catch wafts of exotic spices and aromatic sauces cooking at meal times but that is the extent of the interaction here at the U.N. No one talks to anyone else, and they certainly don’t talk to me or my family.  It is an unspoken rule that I didn’t pick up on when we moved in.  I said, “Hello!” to everyone I passed.  They put their heads down and kept walking.  I took my son to the nearby doors where we had seen children playing.  We knocked and introduced ourselves.  We were not greeted with smiles. There was a language barrier certainly, but we were treated to shaking heads while doors were politely closed.

I haven’t given up, I continue to say “Hi!” when we pass neighbors, occasionally I get a smile or a head nod.  No words. Never any words.

And then yesterday it snowed.  My son and I threw on sweatshirts and jackets and flew outside to see the wonderous event…only to find that it had created another wonderous event, the entire U.N. had come out to play!  My neighbors were laughing and throwing snow, and smiling….and yes talking.  I won’t lie and say that there was full on conversation, it was too much like the tower of Babble for that…but there was communication.  People were making eye contact and shaking their heads in wonder.  It was as if we were allowed to commune over this miraculous experience.

The snow was amazing, so very out of context amongst the palm trees and the open swimming pool, but what it brought was so much more powerful.  It reminded us all for a few moments that we are all human, that cultures and skin colors and languages and even economic failure can’t separate us.  It was a miraculous snow.

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By Shannon Penrod

Last week my son turned 6 years old.  We decided to throw him a dance party.  It didn’t seem at all odd to me, he loves to dance and I wanted to do something that wouldn’t revolve around food and wouldn’t cost a small fortune.  Solution: Dance Party!  IMG00270-20090605-2059We found a great warehouse space that comes with a trampoline, a bouncy house, a Wii and an Xbox 360 (both hooked up to big screen TVs) – the rent was ridiculously cheap and I bartered the services of a great DJ. 

I did this for a little boy who has worked so hard to overcome autism.  My mom and my husband and I watched him at the party, which my friend Therese called a six year old rave, and we couldn’t believe how social he was.

Just three and a half years ago we realized there was a problem when we went to a friend’s birthday party and our son sat in the corner by himself, humming as he played with a Buzz Lightyear toy, he never even noticed there were other children at the party.  Last week he was the belle of the ball, laughing and running from activity to activity, talking to his friends, answering when his friends called him, even cracking jokes.  It was a great night, and it was filled with family and friends who had shown up to celebrate with us.

Towards the end of the party I had a moment.  You know one of those rushes of feeling and clarity that kind of takes your breath away.  I looked at my mom and my son and was acutely aware of how quickly time passes and how precious every moment is.  There were several moments when I considered not having a birthday party for my son this year – In this economy…aren’t we all carefully considering every expenditure? 

But as I looked around that warehouse room and saw all the faces of people we love and that love us, I knew that this would be a night my family would always remember.  In ten years we aren’t going to remember all of the daily struggles to pay bills and buy biomeds and secure therapy hours, we’re going to remember the celebrations.  I thought about the last ten years and the weddings, graduations, births and home comings we’ve enjoyed, there have been hard times too and even a few funerals, but when all is said and done, it’s the celebrations we remember the most.  I’m awfully glad that we took the time to find the joy in life, now I know…it’s in the celebrations

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