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Jack Simpson - American Dream fades for Jill and George

The American dream is often elusive and sometimes quite fragile, isn't it? It takes years of hard work to get an education, find a good paying job with benefits, and buy that home with the picket fence and a two-car garage.

All of these things and more were enjoyed by Jill and George. Once they retired, the couple sold their home up North and moved to a new one right on a golf course in sunny Florida. George worked at the country club and Jill sold real estate. Life was good.

Yes, they had realized their dream. They had it made until the current downturn in the economy and until their elderly parents in Georgia required help and assistance in a nursing home.

To meet their responsibilities, Jill and George put their Florida home on the market. Jill moved to an apartment in Georgia to assist parents, while George stayed behind to work and sell the home in Florida.

The American dream isn't always built on bedrock, they learned. In fact, it can be standing on sand that can shift in a tide and become unstable.

The building boom crashed. The real estate market declined. People experienced foreclosures, banks failed and some would no longer lend money. Requests for government bailout followed and many dreams shifted with the sands. Property values fell and the couple's home in Florida would not sell. George lost his job. Jill lost her job and was stuck with a year's lease on an apartment in Georgia. The couple remained separated by circumstances beyond their control.

The world economy was in big trouble and being in personal financial difficulty did not help. In fact, people everywhere were walking out on mortgages they could no longer pay. Real estate sellers could not find customers among people who were defaulting on mortgages. The crush of bills began pressing down on many dream holders. People had to tighten their belts and re-evaluate priorities.

Many Christmas shoppers were waiting until the very last minute to buy gifts hoping the stores would slash their prices even more. For the unemployed, Manolo Blahnik shoes have dropped off shopping lists and the luxury boutique has been bypassed on the way to Wal-Mart's lower prices. The Grinch has stolen the Christmas of many Americans this year.

Jill and George know their woes may grow before the economy recovers and before they find new jobs. They are optimistic, hoping that eventually the economy will again show strength and flexibility. Once having the American dream, they hope to achieve it again.

Perhaps the government bailout will enable banks to make loans for people to buy houses, automobiles and pay their mortgages. Maybe Jill can return to her business and George can sell the house, move and find a new job in Georgia. He may have to hire a professional to rewrite his resume and maybe even take a transmitional position before returning to a job similar to the one he lost. With so many factories and jobs moving overseas, job losses increase and demands for unemployment benefits are rising. Jill and George are learning to be patient and flexible.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.