LIFE | CHRIS VENTURA: When life’s essentials go unnoticed

By Chris Ventura

Family.  Friends.  Neighbors.  Coworkers.  Americans whose individual life stories and experiences are woven into the fabric of our communities.  Individuals we care about, who undoubtedly care about us in return – remain foremost in our minds – especially during this time of uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus and the economic uncertainty.

With all of the modern conveniences we have available to us – from the countless televisions that blare news 24/7 to the smartphones that keep us tethered to the latest headlines – we are all given a front row to the slow-motion shutdown of our state.  Schools closed.  Travel cancelled.  Local businesses shuttered.  Grocery store shelves wiped clean of toilet paper, paper towels, and other products that don’t seem very essential.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to quite simply take a step back.

I picked up a book, by Donald Stratton, the first memoir penned by a survivor of the USS Arizona which was sunk in Pearl Harbor 78 years ago.  In All the Gallant Men, Stratton recounts his growing up in a rural community in Nebraska – living through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. This was a time when crops withered in fields and almost every necessity was in short supply – gasoline, butter, rubber, sugar…the list goes on.

But, how the times have changed – one can just look at the grocery store parking lot and what remains on the shelves.  With cutting-edge agricultural innovations and abundant supplies of propane and natural gas infrastructure to deliver it, our farmers are able to maintain the most productive agricultural land in the world to feed our families.  With abundant supplies of diesel, our long-haul truckers are risking themselves to keep our supply chains working, delivering food and other products to neighborhood markets and our homes.  With abundant supplies of affordable gasoline, we are able to fill the parking lots of the stores and afterward, leave to check on our family and friends.  With life-saving health technologies inconceivable generations ago and abundant supplies of electricity, our doctors and nurses are able to provide better, more effective care for their patients.

How the times have changed.  Everything, that is, but family and faith.

Stratton recounted a simple quote that helped him get through the challenges – both physically and emotionally – which he encountered:

Do the best you can

With what you’ve got.

It will be enough.

But we’ve surpassed having ‘enough.’ Now we have plenty. Instead of being concerned about having a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage, we’ve moved to a cell phone in every pocket and a television in every room. Meanwhile, mortality rates are down, life expectancy is up, and we’ve produced vaccines that have eradicated diseases so our parents live longer, our communities are safer and we can confidently tackle the challenges head on.

Being part of the Greatest Generation, Stratton quipped in his book about a lack of toilet paper during the Great Depression, too.  His family of six got around it by sharing a Sears catalog – itself a relic, beloved to generations as the source of countless Christmas lists – in the outhouse.

Unfortunately, Stratton passed away in February at the age of 97.  One can only wonder what he, and the other gallant men who served with him, may have thought about life’s essentials that we have taken for granted.

As we move through this twin crisis of health and economics together, let’s take a moment to understand how good our lives are because of the essentials that we barely give a second thought. Let’s take a moment to work even harder to persevere and right our collective ship because the best we can do will be just enough.

Chris Ventura, Midwest director of Consumer Energy Alliance, a U.S. consumer advocate supporting affordable, reliable energy for working families, seniors and businesses across the country.

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