by Chrysa Smith

I’m not stepping onto the soapbox, being a drama queen or a doomsday prophet. Just observing life. So hear me out lest you think I’m one of those new-age self-help gurus who wants to empower everyone. I’ve got enough of a job managing my family and myself. I wouldn’t dare pass out unsolicited life advice to anyone—well, anyone with two legs.

But just this week, a topic has struck me over and over. And that is, despite the fact that we give lip service to the fact that things can change at a moment’s notice, many of us really don’t get it—including me. I mean we were all startled by 911 and the financial downfall—and the changes that brought home to roost. But on a larger scale, many of us still don’t get it.

A case in point. I was out with the pooches this morning on a slightly different route. While trying to restrain the exuberant canines, I tried to take in as much of nature as possible on an early morning that was finally—–well, let’s just say that the Pennsylvania air was finally invisible instead of a 3-D illusion that you could reach out, grab and tuck away in your pocket.

So, I looked over at a home which was rather untidy, thinking to myself, wow, those people may have been struck hard by the economic situation or other life issues that cause one to put first things first. In the driveway, a Mercedes SUV with the license plate that had an eight letter descriptive word, beginning with the letter ‘e’ , ending in ‘d’ that means completely deserving; having a righteous claim to something. At first I chuckled, thinking how ironic it is that while the house and yard are in disrepair, the attitude on the vehicle is elitist. Seeing it on the road would lead one to believe that their home is probably magnanimous, impeccable—maybe even doting paid help. Then it hit me that it’s so descriptive of the attitude with which so many have lived lives during the past few decades—lives that have led to cumulative negative changes. But life has a way of smacking us in the face. And perhaps that attitude is now, due to life circumstances, in adjustment mode.

A house of cards can only stand for so long. Greed and power, two of our life-long friends, pop in and out of our lives, luring us with things that promise some sort of fulfillment. Yet, as those of us not ready for granny panties have often learned by now, it’s a shell–a sham—an empty vessel. Now, that’s not to say that one shouldn’t possess nice things. After all, as I just blogged last week, we are all into looks. (Boy, looks, greed and power? We sound like a terrible lot). But I believe it’s all in the management, the attitude, the importance it retains and the presentation of one’s gifts.

Earlier I said this topic has come up for me over and over. Yes. In recent months, a man named Bernie Madoff, a millionaire’s man, seemingly at the top of his game now sits alone in an orange jumpsuit in a tiny cell. In a few short months, BP went from being a foreign oil company to a household name to two dirty words, with millions of dollars and investments fleeing their coffers faster than the oil pumped out of that well. Salt of the earth fishermen, just doing their daily work have had lives turned upside down because of the negligent actions of others, impairing their ability to do what they do.

It’s all around us—in daily life and in history. The most powerful empires–Roman, Ottoman have fallen. Church organizations have been turned upside down through wars and scandals. Small businesses have closed due to greedy investors,no credit available through the banking system, slow business caused by the Wall Street debaucle and the recession. World leaders have been brought down in shameful scandals. Third world countries have risen to levels of job creation well beyond ours. And for the first time in over a decade, my family has had to make some cuts. Yes Virginia, the world can be turned upside down. Hopefully, Santa can fix it for 2011.

Revelation? Well, not in the final sense, although I have no inner knowledge about that one. But I do believe that there are lessons all around us waiting to be learned. Adjustment in attitude, increase in gratitude and the focus to keep the most important things at the top of the list—–they really are the things that make for a quality life. If we can only keep our human nature (and desire for vanity plates) in check.