Lessons to Learn from the Great Depression

Lessons to Learn from the Great Depression


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The Great Depression was undoubtedly the most challenging time for American families in our history. The sudden economic collapse that wiped out jobs, destroyed access to food and forced people to migrate for years on end left an indelible impression on people that lasted for generations. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that people dealt with those difficult times, and we can learn some important lessons as we prepare for the next one.



People Had Skills

Most Americans were farmers or had roots in agriculture and self-sufficiency. They knew how to grow crops, cultivate land and fix clothing. They knew how to build things and make improvised repairs based on material that they had on hand. These are life skills that many of us did not grow up having. One of the biggest challenges that we face as preppers is getting familiar with things that were normal back in those days. Homsteading, preparing natural foods, caring for the sick in our families and living and working together for our survival are just a few examples of things that we should try and get re-acquainted with.


People Had a Good Attitude

Stories abound about the extreme trials that millions upon millions of people had to endure during the depression. Food lines, taking on any type of job available and even accepting payment in the form of barter or in exchange for room and board. Clothing was in tatters, people had to repair the soles of their shoes with rubber from tires and it was commonplace for children to be taught in the home. Children were also expected to work to help the family, and everyone sort of stuck together and made do with what they had.


Despite these difficulties, people had a different attitude back then. They didn’t sulk, didn’t hope for the government to take care of them, and they made the most of a difficult situation. This is a huge contrast to the entitlement generation that we have today. The sad reality is that many people will become easily demoralized and dejected if we were to face a similar situation again. However, as the old adage goes, attitude is everything. People ate together, drank together, made music together and prayed together, and they relied on one another to survive and thrive despite the obstacles that were in their way. That’s key to survival, whether following a natural disaster or a complete SHTF situation.



People Were More Trusting

Maybe one of the most different things between now and then is that we don’t trust others as much. We have been trained to view people with suspicion through the media, government and social interactions. We have also isolated ourselves from not only the community at large, but from our extended families due to our modern way of life. This makes it more difficult to come together and trust one another during a crisis. While it is important to always use good judgment and follow instincts with respect to how much we trust strangers, or even people we know, it’s also important to have a strong network and support system in place.


Families stayed together. Communities were close. People knew their neighbors. Even when the depression forced entire segments of the population to migrate from place to place, people were more reliant on one another in many ways that seem foreign to us today. While there was definitely a fair share of thieves, scammers, liars and opportunists who just waited for a chance to cause others harm, people were also less-aggressive and more kind to their fellow man. This is something that we don’t have today.


Consequently, this lack of community and trust is feeding the need to prepare for aggressive people and threats from those who wish to do us harm. We all expect people to become violent during a disaster, and we focus on preparing to defend ourselves to a greater degree than those who came before us.


Finally, people were more content to do with less. The depression made everything scarce. There wasn’t a consumer culture that exists today. I think it will be much more difficult to cope with a similar situation since we’ve become so accustomed to creature comforts that will be hard to give up in the wake of a crisis.


Take time to learn about the Great Depression, and see how people coped and managed to carve out a life during one of the most difficult periods in our history. We can benefit by applying some of the same habits and principles they lived by, and that can help us to prepare in our own way for the dark days that many of us believe are on the horizon.



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