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A Tipping Point

During the past few weeks there’s been an increase in the amount of calls to my law office from people who are in financial distress.  There’s a certain segment of the population that’s up against the ropes financially – people who are looking for a simple solution to their complex problems.

About two months ago I told my employees that we needed to be prepared for an upswing in our bankruptcy business.  With gasoline prices doubling over the past two years, I knew it was only a matter of time before a significant number of people would reach a point where they could no longer continue to charge purchases with their credit cards to make up for their additional spending on gas.

A lot of people are starting to reach a tipping point.  The best way to describe a “tipping point” is as follows:

Fill up a glass of water to the point where it almost overflows.  Then add one additional drop of water at a time.  Before long, the water will rise to a point where it literally arcs in the center of the glass.  Then just one additional drop will cause the water to overflow and spill over the sides of the glass.  It’s not just one drop that spills over the sides from that last drop of water.  A considerable amount of water spills over the sides.  The last drop of water is what is referred to as the “tipping point.”

There are a large number of people who are approaching their financial tipping points.  They’re able to hold off the day of reckoning for only so long.  Then some unexpected event causes everything to come crashing down around them.

Recently, Mike Duke, the Chief Executive Officer of Wal-Mart, observed that the mega retailer’s “core shoppers” are “running out of money much faster than a year ago.”  Duke said that “purchases are really dropping off by the end of the month, even more than a year ago” and “the end-of-month cycle is growing to be a concern.”

If any company knows the buying habits of Americans, it’s Wal-Mart.

Despite the fact that people are running out of money to buy goods at Wal-Mart, they’re finding the money to buy handguns in record numbers.  Bloomberg News reported that the FBI’s Instant Criminal Background Check System processed 16% more applications this year than were processed by this time last year.  If background-check applications continue at the same pace for the rest of this year, the number of applications will set a seventh straight annual record.

Guess who’s getting back into the business of selling guns and ammo after a five year hiatus?

Wal-Mart.

So here’s a worthwhile question to consider: What’s the tipping point that is causing normal law-abiding citizens to spend their desperately needed cash on guns?

There’s a deep-seated uneasiness about what’s going on in our country right now – politically, culturally, and financially.  Although most people can’t really explain their uneasiness, they can feel it in their hearts.  They know that things aren’t right.  They feel like they’re losing control.  They feel threatened.

How do people react when they feel threatened?  They do what’s necessary to protect their families.  They buy guns.  They purchase extra food and household supplies to put in storage.  If they can afford it, they invest in some “real money” – gold and silver.

I don’t blame people for wanting to protect and provide for their families, but I’m disappointed because most of them don’t have their priorities in the right order.  They don’t seem to be focusing any additional time and energy on what would benefit them the most – prayer.

I haven’t seen any news stories or studies that show church attendance is on the rise.  And I haven’t seen any articles about how people are purchasing rosaries and prayer books in record numbers.

When I was a teenager, my grandmother, Cecilia LaHood, told me that during World War II, she participated in “Block Rosaries.”  You probably already know this, but various sections of a city are broken down into “blocks.”  A “city block” is ordinarily made up of a rectangular space that is enclosed by streets that are lined with residential or commercial buildings.

During World War II, my grandmother lived in an area of the City where most of the families in the block where she lived were Catholic.  Some of those families had a son, husband, or brother who had been drafted to fight in the war.  Most of the women in the block got together every evening during the war to pray a rosary together.  They prayed for the safe return of their men and for an end to the war.

What was it that brought the woman together to pray every night (something they had not previously done)?  It was primarily the fear that one of their men would not make it home from the war.  There was also a fear that additional men would be drafted.

Unfortunately, the only thing that convinces most people that they need to spend more time in prayer is a catastrophic event, such as: (1) a natural disaster; (2) a severe financial crisis; (3) a catastrophic injury of a loved one; or (4) a war that involves the drafting of men who are required to go into battle.

If I told you I’ve seen people pray their way out of a serious financial crisis would you believe me?  I saw one couple do it by adding a daily Mass and rosary to their schedule.  It took awhile after they started their new daily routine, but they finally came to the conclusion that the husband needed to get a part time job (in addition to his full time job), and his wife needed to go back to work outside of the home.  It took over 7 years before they felt like they were making measurable progress.  Because they focused on their prayer life first, they were able to get through the financial storm that almost destroyed their marriage.

It’s frustrating to me to see people wait until they’re past their tipping points before they consider focusing on their prayer life.  Even though they may finally get to the point where they realize it might benefit them to pray more, they never seem to get around to making the commitment.  They just continue to helplessly watch everything fall apart around them.

There could be a tipping point for you (or a loved one) in the future.  Why not try to head it off by making a commitment to attend Mass and pray a rosary every day?  Is that too much to ask?  If it is, you can start with a daily Mass or rosary.  Don’t wait until you’re in desperate need of help before you start your new prayer routine.

All preparations for the future should start with prayer.

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One Response to “A Tipping Point”

  1. Sister Roberta Houlihan, CSJ Says:

    Harry, I’m not sure where Cecilia LaHood lived while I was “little”, but I know she lived in the 1600 blk of N. North Street, across from PHS] and worked for our Pastor [St. Cecilia’s] We lived in the 1700 blk, the ONLY Catholics in our neighborhood, bounded by Richmond and Nebraska, until two of the neighbor-girls married Catholic boys. [My sister is Godmother for both girls!] Both of the spouses are long deceased, but the “girls” have reared wonderful Catholic families!
    I loved your Grandmother! I’m not sure when she passed away. I went to Carondelet (St. Louis) to become a “CSJ” Small World!

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