When I was five years old, my mother took me to a local shoe store to pick out new shoes for Kindergarten. I remember they were white and blue leather hush puppies with unbelievably white laces. I loved them. After purchasing the shoes and guiding my siblings and I into our blue Chevy Malibu we drove home only to find that my new shoes weren’t in the car. My mom was frantic because she suspected that she had put the shoes on the roof of the car to help the kids get into their seat belts. We retraced our way back and forth to the store and back several times to try and find the shoes on the road, but my shoes were gone.
My mother started crying. Hysterically. She said that my Grandma had given her the money for me to get new shoes and that we did not have any money to replace them. I was stunned.
That was the first time I realized that my parents were struggling. I remember hearing tense conversations between my mom and dad from time to time. I watched my dad sell his nice car. Despite these ripples of discontent, my world was still very peaceful. The evidence of my parents’ heartbreak was minimal and was very carefully shielded from us.
Now I know that my Dad’s business had failed and they had lost everything but their home. My mother recalls from this time of her life, “We had no credit. At one point there was only $11 in our account and no hope of money coming in. We survived on our stored canned foods, having no money for fresh fruit or vegetables.”
I still like canned pork and beans and peaches to this day.
My Dad spun his wheels trying to make money for the family. He tried direct sales and was a salesman of solar heating systems for a while. Then he worked for a sign company based in Idaho who had him sell signs in the Bay Area. One day, they called to say they were closing their California office immediately but there were still signs that needed to be installed. My dad, who had never, ever hung a sign before asked, “Can I install those final signs for you?” They said yes. When he came home to tell my mom of his plan told her, “I can do this. I know I can do this.”
Since this tragedy, my parents have lived within their means, worked hard, obtained more education and licensing, built up a savings and live by a budget. (They were probably living this way before, but life can be unfair.) My dad has never driven a car as fancy as the one he sold when I was young and has been diligent in teaching his children the value of work and in maintaining their credit scores.
Decades later, my husband and I now own that same small sign installation company that my dad started on the back of that Chevy Malibu years ago. We have been blessed by my Dad’s willingness to sacrifice for his small family and try something new. (He had previously been a partner in a company where his main function was accounting.) Undoubtedly the principles of self-reliance were taught to my parents by their parents as my parents have taught me. But it is also part of our culture. Mormons believe in being self-reliant.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints hosts a website on the topic of Self-Reliance.
On that website are a few quotes I found helpful;
Self-reliance is a simple concept that encourages each of us to take responsibility for our own needs—physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and economic.
Julie B. Beck, General Relief Society President for the Church explains,
“We become self-reliant, through obtaining sufficient knowledge, education, and literacy; by managing money and resources wisely, being spiritually strong, preparing for emergencies and eventualities; and by having physical health and social and emotional well-being.”
And finally, Robert D. Hales, an apostle of Jesus Christ outlines ways to be self-reliant:
Be ready for rainy-day emergencies
Avoid excessive debt; be content with what we have
Use the resources of the earth wisely; don´t be wasteful
Prepare for the future by making spending and savings plans
Keep a family or personal budget
Teach children wise spending habits and help them save for the future
Obtain an education or vocational training
Find gainful employment
In summary, Elder Hales says that being self reliant is “Preparing for the ups and downs of life.”
To learn more about self-reliance, please visit the church’s websites.
Such principles as food storage, emergency preparedness, family budgeting and home gardening can be explored at these websites. In my own life, I have found a lot of peace by following these principles. When I review these materials, I always find ways I can improve. Maybe I’ll start a garden this year…… What will you do to prepare for the ups and downs of life?