No. 652



When it comes to having or owning a home, going back in my mind as far as I can remember, I have heard these two statements or sayings: “There is no place like home” and “Home is where the heart is.” Of course there is a vast difference in having a house, and owning a home, but the mortgage crisis that is impacting the lives of millions of people across our nation has caused Viola and me to take stock, and we really appreciate what we have. We don’t own a big house, even when compared to many of our neighbors, but it’s comfortable and it is home, and in today’s economic climate what’s just as important is that it’s paid for. We don’t have a mortgage or a house payment, and we are very grateful.
Even as I began to write these words, I asked myself why I would address this subject. It’s certainly not to brag or to gloat, because I learned a long time ago that what goes around comes around. The reason I decided to share some thoughts on this important topic is because I care deeply about the people who are losing their homes and are suffering, at least on the short term. During a four-month stretch in the year 2008, it is estimated that more than one million people will lose their homes due to foreclosure. Many of these people will wind up on the streets, while others will move in with relatives or look for a smaller, less expensive place to live.
I have no way of knowing how many people who read this column will be impacted in a negative way because of the mortgage crisis. If you or someone you know is impacted, I hope you will share my thoughts with them, because I want to offer hope, both to you and to them, and more than a few words of encouragement. First, understand that losing a home because you can no longer make the payment is not the end of the world. While it’s hard, you can get through it and in a few months or at least a few years, you can come back stronger and wiser than your best days before the crisis came along.
Here is a simple truth that impacts the life of every person who has financial problems, and especially those who lose their homes due to foreclosure. If people lived before the foreclosure like they did after the foreclosure, then they would not have the foreclosure. In short, when we spend more than we earn, we are asking for financial trouble. I believe the root problem comes back to understanding our own self-worth as a human being. When we know and understand that we have great worth and value, we don’t have to try to impress others by wanting to live in a big house, drive a big car or any of the other trappings that we call success.
Many people who live this way spend less than they earn and can afford this kind of lifestyle. I am for these people, because that is part of the American dream that we work for, but those who cannot afford this kind of lifestyle are asking for trouble. I saw a great feature on television a few days ago where a man and his wife were working together and you would not believe all the different ways they had found to save money. We have a real dilemma in our country. On the one hand we hear that the average person has eight credit cards and owes $10,000 in personal debt. On the other, we are encouraged to spend money to stimulate the economy.
When it comes to our nation’s economy, the mortgage crisis is just the tip of the iceberg. The real long-term problem lies in our nation’s educational system. In the public schools in our major cities, more than half of the students do not graduate. The city of Detroit heads up the list with less than 25 percent of its students graduating from high school and less than one third from all public schools across the country. That adds up to more than 7,000 students who drop out of high school each day and $373 billion in lost productivity, taxes and personal income. In past years these students could go to work in factories, but the factories are no longer here. The items that factories used to produce are now being produced in other countries.
At this point in our history, who knows whether we are in the third quarter or the fourth quarter, but I am reasonably sure that the hour is late. The only solution I see is for all of us to work together to improve our nation’s educational system. We need parents, educators and community leaders to set a higher standard for our children and to refocus our priorities on academics.
The best analogy that I have been able to come up with, in terms of our nation’s financial future, is to see a house where termites have damaged the foundation. We can tear out the damaged sections and rebuild, but it will take all of us working together to get the job done. After World War II, the Japanese rebuilt their country and had a motto or slogan, “We Are Driven.” In my opinion, this is the attitude we must develop here in America. Yes, it’s true. There is no place like home.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)