Historically, the American Dream has taken many forms. In truth, the dream defies one succinct definition. For some people the dream takes its form as a sprawling home, filled with a big family, with opportunities in education and employment for all. For other people the dream is realized simply as a roof overhead with adequate heat and food available. For some folks, it's simply the right to face each new day directed by their own strength of will. Whatever form the American Dream takes for various people, one thing is for certain: The American dream is beaten down, warped, torn, and tattered. For some hurting souls, the dream has all but faded away.

A story from USA Today cites a recent study conducted by Gallup and Healthways, a Tennessee health management company. The study, which gives body to statistics documenting American aspirations, emotional attitudes, and social conditions, paints a picture of gritty determination in the midst of a mind numbing downward spiral. According to the report; "More than 24 million Americans shifted in 2008 from lives that were "thriving" to ones that were "struggling," What the study cannot give body to is just how long the downturn, or the determination to survive it, will last.

As I read the story from USA Today, one tiny silver lining emerged in the big dark cloud of economic uncertainty. It seems that the people who have entered this nation's decline with the least, are the same people who are maintaining the highest levels of determination to survive and succeed. The one exception to this dynamic, a revelation which I find particularly disconcerting, is the fact that African Americans, in spite of the election of President Obama, remain as one of the groups showing the steepest decline in economic and social optimism. Business owners, white collar executives, and people who are 35-39 years old, are also reporting that the economic decline is resting a bit heavier on their personal morale than the average.

What is a person to do however, when they are willing to work but there seem to be few good paying jobs at the ready? As a person who just had his work week cut down to 24 hours, I can tell you only this much: When the grim reaper of gainful employment is standing on your doorstep, you set your chin firm and you thumb your nose in his face. You talk to your neighbors. You talk to your coworkers. You find the things you never would have done in the past to earn money. You tighten the screws down a couple more notches on your budget. You eat a little less. You turn the thermostat down a couple more degrees. The television stays off more. Reading becomes more inviting. You suck it up hard, and you suck it up long, and if you have enough to eat, you make damn sure that you're thankful for it.. And if you happen to think of it, when you are quietly considering self pity, you take just a moment to pray for the 5.5 million other people who are in the same boat as you are.

But of course, that's just my semi-employed opinion.

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