When I was in college, I held the Economic Majors in high esteem. They were the practical girls, instead of us doe-eyed slobs in the Humanities Building. The Econ girls had graph paper notebooks, and thick calculators, and resumes with ascending levels of internships in chronological order.
I remember as a sophomore, following my senior idol, a fellow member of my debate team, to get her resume copied at our local copy shop. The anguished decision over the type of bond paper, the typewritten address labels, the mighty names of brokerages on Wall Street—of the things connected with an Econ Majors quest for employment seemed more exotic to me than a Junior Year Abroad Program in Burma.
In the dizzying moments of my career change, times when I constantly choose to follow my heart and completely ignore the practicality of money, I took a strange comfort in the road not traveled. The pledge drive for a 10-year college reunion might find me as a stay-at-home mother of two on Food Stamps. Still my experiences had to be unusual. That’s me, Abby Rupp, the odd girl from the Class of ’97. I took a left turn back in freshman year opting out of the practical Education Major for the unheard of American Studies Major. If I was now having hard economic times, that was foreseeable. Financial pain is par for my course.
I took comfort in the thought that other classmates “did things the right way.” They shopped the merry-go-round of campus interviews, landed “real” jobs at 22, turned in brilliant analyst reports and got rewarded with a bonus, a pension, and a paid MBA.
My college friends dined on endive salads in Manhattan apartments and struggled to find an excercise slot within a 90 plus hour work week. Meanwhile, I ate spaghetti with Prego and frozen peas in the suburbs with my three children while my husband postponed a triple cavity filling for another month in order to avoid delinquency with my student loan payments.
Our financial situations were opposed, but they both seemed fair. The scales seemed balanced. If I wished that my friends could “find Jesus,” it was in a mild, abstract way. I hoped they found time to pray in the middle of Step Class. I hoped they found a mate.
I certainly didn’t hope that the entire financial industry would collapse, or at least threaten to collapse, so that for the first time people with $800 heels suddenly worried about brownbag lunches and Prego sauce, and putting necessary cavity fillings on your father's credit card.
I’m worried about those Econ girls and all their male counterparts on Wall Street this week. I can handle my life, but some days it’s tough. Besides, I’ve had more practice. I ate Budget Gourmet in law school. I carefully separated the ramen noodles from the broth to give myself two courses at dinner as a lowly paid public interest servant. I went down to a single pair of shoes as a stay-at-home Mother.
Beside, I’ve always had the flakey artist thing going on. I’ve also had passion for old movies, and writing on ancient computers and squeezing unbelievably cute babies from an unbelievably sweet husband.
I worry, but then Jesus tells me not too. In Hosea 2 3, 14-16.
“I will strip her naked
and expose her as in the day she was born,
and make her like a wilderness
and turn her into a parched land
and kill her with thirst . . .
“Therefore, I will now persuade her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
From there I will giver her her vineyards,
And make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she shall respond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
On that day, says the Lord, you will call me,
I’m thinking about you Wall Street bankers and stock brokers today. You may be able to go to work at your same desk this morning, or you may be sitting at home. Regardless, Jesus has yanked all of us into the wilderness. Jesus has stripped away the illusion of financial security. It’s scary at first. You look around and only see ‘lack’-- a lack of food, a lack of water and a lack of shelter.
Yet I’ve been hanging out in the desert of financial uncertainty for a while. Let me show you around.
It’s harsh here, but beautiful. Here’s a place to test an inner strength you never knew you had. The friends who see you in your humility, the ones who lend you diapers when your babies run out, or who whip up baked lasagna when their own husbands are unemployed, or who join their hearts in prayer when you just can't take the collection calls anymore, those are the dear, dear friends. You can't make a single friend like that on a singles cruise in the Aegean Sea.
It is harsh here in the desert. Yet it is still. It is the perfect place to hear the soft, tender words of God.
I’ll be lifting you all up in intercessory prayer this week. I’ll do all the heavy work with the rosary right now. You just sit still and catch your breath.
Thanks for covering my class dues at our reunion back in 2007. I can’t wait to see where we all end up at 2017. I sort of hope all this financial turmoil will make the attendance at Catholic Mass during reunion week finally overwhelming.