There is a lot of bad news out there. Unemployment stands at 8.9 percent and rising. There are hundreds of foreclosures in Oak Park. Economists predict that a full recovery may be three years off. This means that stress factors are way up for all of us. I mean you, you and even you.

Husbands are arguing with wives more. Partners, lovers and friends are teeing off on one another. I am even blaming the economy for yelling too much at my teenager when he practices driving around town.

“&^#@%. Slow down! Didn’t you see those pedestrians in the crosswalk?”

My dad had a way of dealing with stress, too. He drank Old Crow bourbon. Shots poured before car trips, outings, before just about anything. In the ’60s and early ’70s, he drank and drank as his business imploded and several new ventures failed. He struggled to pay the bills. I remember him walking home from work on his lunch hour one cold winter day to get the heat turned back on when I was home sick from school. By the time he managed to stop drinking, he had already done his body in. He died in 1972. He was 53 and left behind six kids.

He was not there for my oldest brother’s wedding a month later, or the dozens of weddings, graduations and births that followed. He missed the economic recovery that started around ’73. No one would have called this once fun-loving Irish guy from the West Side and Oak Park, who tippled, depressed. But in hindsight, he was probably self-medicating.

I do not believe his story is unique. Looking up and down my street in Oak Park, I have heard similar stories. Sometimes now, it is not only alcohol but drugs, too. They assume no one knows, but we do. They assume they must face their demons alone, but they do not. This is Oak Park, after all. And Oak Park is supposed to be a community. And we have resources in Oak Park.

One great resource is the Family Service and Mental Health Center of Oak Park and River Forest, located on Marion Street just south of the train tracks. This organization has been around for a century. Whether it is an adult or a teen searching for help with depression or addiction, Family Service can help. It also has a sliding payment scale. They have a Web site at www.familyserviceoprf.org. There are also a number of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that take place in Oak Park and the vicinity.

So if you know someone who is teetering with the weight of the world, listen over a fence, take them to Buzz or Nola’s Cup for coffee, let them know that they are not alone and point them to help. The economy will eventually improve, but even if it does not, our lives will go on and are worth living.

Jack Crowe is a third generation Oak Parker. He cycles with the Lake and Harlem group, volunteers at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep in Austin and sometimes performs at the Village Players Performing Arts Center.

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