book review: A Secret Gift

A few months ago Grammy called us late, really late, like 2 AM. It was before her heart surgery. She was all kinds of upset because of the economy. She had spoken to her son earlier that day and he had offhandedly said asked if she was ready for the second depression, since she had made it through the first.

Grammy's question to me and Brent really revolved around one major topic: food. During the depression she told us she had eaten beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She was not going to do it again.

Brent was able to talk her down. He explained that after the depression we, as a country, had enacted a series of programs to act as social safety-nets. Gram seemed to calm down.

I both believe and could not believe that she only had beans to eat. That is until I started reading A Secret Gift, How One Man's Kindness- and a Trove of Letters-Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression. When I think of the depression I think of it in aggregate: bad things happened all over the world. People were poor.

But tangibly that meant nothing. After reading this book, I have a much better sense of what happened.

For example, all of the banks failed. We have all seen It's a Wonderful Life but that does not really bring the failed banks idea home.

Since the recession started, 306 banks have failed, but no one has really felt it, because your savings are insured by the US government. What if they had not been? Can you imagine your life savings just going away? Not there anymore? Maybe Americans have such small savings accounts, that it would not be that big of a deal, but I can't really believe that.

I have numerous friends and family members who have lost their jobs, but because of unemployment insurance, their lives went on. They eventually found new jobs.

The book really brings home what life was like and could be like if we did not have the safety net in place we have to day. I wish more people who are so supportive of smaller government would read what the results of these types of policies can be in real life.

Oh and it is a super heartwarming tale that makes you want to give more away, because as we all know, the giver gets more than he gives.

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