We live in times where we feel the very ground beneath us shudder and the natural instinct to withdraw one's money and oneself from general circulation often takes over.
And while it may be difficult to evoke any sympathy for the declining incomes of the larger entities among us - such as those with "Inc." at the end of their names - another result of tough times is a decline we may not think of right off.
When the climb becomes steeper, we may feel the urge to take fewer sojourns off the main path to extend an arm to pull another uphill, just at a time when such help might be needed the most.
Scottsdale once again honored people who gave of themselves to others Thursday with the Frances Young Community Heroes awards, co-sponsored by this newspaper.
Thoughts like this come to mind when the praises were sung about this year's honorees. The spotlight was turned upon them in part because their efforts were destined to be only their own reward until being noticed by this program.
Volunteering always comes at a sacrifice. But volunteering these days, when one's own dollars may not go as far, requires even more sacrifice.
Former Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley, the morning's keynote speaker, recalled a situation when a volunteer went beyond what might usually be expected.
The story is often told that Romley was a Marine during the Vietnam War who in 1969 stepped on a land mine, resulting in the loss of his legs. Today he uses a cane and prosthetics.
But he didn't mention those injuries Thursday, only that his stomach was also ripped by the mine's shrapnel and that he was unable to eat or drink for a month, resulting in a massive weight loss.
When the doctors agreed he needed to eat to gain some of it back, he was finally allowed to try a bit of food, he said. But he couldn't keep anything down, due in part to its being hospital food, he said.
With a shot-up stomach, it's not hard to imagine anything unsettling about what's being given to you to eat is going to be difficult to swallow. He said that the milk he was offered was warm, for example.
A Red Cross volunteer, using money Romley said she probably couldn't afford to spend, went outside the hospital, to buy and bring to him some real food.
Romley's voice broke when he said he will never forget what she brought him.
It was a steak dinner with all the trimmings.
Romley concluded his remarks with a quotation from the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. I looked it up. It was from a speech Kennedy gave in South Africa at the University of Cape Town on June 6, 1966. At the time, of course, apartheid was firmly gripping the oppressed black majority there.
Most speeches that are memorable are often given a name. It helps to be an orator to start with.
Daniel Webster, for example, gave one known only by its date: the "Seventh of March" (1850) speech in opposition to Southern succession. President Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address in 1863 to commemorate a Pennsylvania battlefield near that town. President Franklin Roosevelt gave his "Day of Infamy" speech referring to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The following is not a speech with a name, but a paragraph from a speech.
Kennedy's words are known as the "Ripple of Hope" paragraph, historians say. You've got to say quite a bit in a mere paragraph for historians to give it a name. But that's what Kennedy did, and in only 74 words, when he talked about sacrifices, large and small:
"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
To repeat a well-known axiom Romley also quoted, you make a living from what you get, but you make a life from what you give. At some times the opportunity to serve comes when it will be a greater sacrifice to give than at other times.
But we are still called upon by the circumstances of the moment to give more than by the degree of our comfort.
It's a blessed thing to give, of course, but even more so when the giver who is also in need, gives nonetheless.
As Scottsdale has honored its giving souls this week, so are the rest of us called to do likewise to better shoulder our collective duty to one another.