The grandfather of Roger Graef, a famous criminologist and film-maker, committed suicide by jumping off a building in 1929 after the great Wall Street Crash. Mr. Graef’s grandfather was in the insurance business, and when he lost his investments, he tragically saw no other options than suicide. On “Black” Tuesday”, October 29, 1929, the market lost $14 billion, making the loss for that week $30 billion. This was more than ten times the annual federal budget at that time and, translated into today’s currency, it would be equal to over ten times that amount. The Dow Jones market peaked at 381 on September 3, 1929 and bottomed out at 42 in 1932. President Hoover erroneously declared in March, 1930 that “the worst had passed”. Unfortunately, the worst had just began!
People who had a comfortable state of living one day found themselves in dire circumstances the next day. Many had to go and live in shanty towns called “Hoovervilles”. Men tried selling apples on the street to find enough money to feed their families. Since that terrible era the economy has experienced its’ peaks and ebbs and most of the industrialized countries enjoy a comfortable standard of living today. However, the 1929 crash was not predicted and took most people by surprise. Reversal of fortunes can occur at any time and we should be prepared. Mr. Graef stated that his view of life and opportunities was that we take our chances. Failure is not a disaster- people often learn more from failure than they do from success.
There are millions of our fellow inhabitants on this earth who are in difficult and challenging circumstances right now. Perhaps we should consider our moral responsibilities to them, and do what we can to make their life more tolerable. We cannot solve all the problems of everyone but we can start with one person at a time. The modern mantra is self-preservation, but it must be tempered with compassion, and a willingness to assist, in any way, those that are less fortunate. We cannot create waves on a pond by blowing but we can create a ripple by throwing one stone, and then another. So let’s help others one at a time.
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
― John Bunyan