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Television has given us a lot of relationships with characters who we can never meet. I remember characters from a lot of TV shows better than I am able to recall certain childhood friends and classmates and I am pretty sure that I still know the TV characters better than I have known a lot of people with whom I once interacted every day. I am sure that you have television memories, too, and that some are shared with almost everyone you know while others are all but forgotten by most of us.

I still remember my early childhood sadness when Brigit Loves Bernie was canceled in 1973 after only one season, despite being the 5th highest rated show on television at the time. I understood why Hello Larry was cancelled, but that did not make it easier for me to lose a weekly dose of McLean Stevenson, whose tragic death (as Colonel Henry Blake) in M*A*S*H remains the most shocking and tragic moment I have ever seen on scripted television. I was angered when the networks bowed to pressures completely unrelated to quality and cancelled Soap because I still had things I need to learn about the Campbells and the Tates.

When I look back on all of the television I have watched, however, the characters who I most often think of as people I could have befriended are the people who worked and relaxed at Cheers. Perhaps I related to them because the show is set in Boston, my hometown, and where I was living during its entire run. Perhaps, it was because at the time that the show was airing I could really relate to contented apathy of so many of the characters. Perhaps it was just the fact that if I did not watch cheers, I would not be able to participate in the following day’s water cooler chat about the show. It might have been all of those things, but I really think what makes me remember Cheers so fondly was its theme song – “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.” From a “we’re gonna make it” standpoint, there are no theme songs that capture human optimism in the face of acceptance better than that song, and lately, I have come to realize that it speaks to me at a different level, about simple financial realities.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got: Our economy is no longer the robust mechanism that once seemingly allowed us to seemingly move from job to job and constantly improve our circumstances. People with jobs are fortunate. People who are out of work are facing a lot of obstacles to finding new employment. Now is not the time to give up. It really does take everything you’ve got to sustain the standard of living that you might have more easily enjoyed five years ago. That does not mean that you have to suffer a lower standard of living now. It just means that you may need to work harder at it.

Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot: Yes, we need to work harder now than we have worked during times when our economy was more vital, but that does not mean that we should forget the things that are important to us. Take time to do things that make you feel good about yourself, even if that means spending a little bit of money or taking time away from other things. Don’t be frivolous but use our hard economic times to help yourself in identifying what is truly important to you, and never let those things go.

Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes the best way to get a grip on a situation that may seem like it is spinning out of control is to get away from it. Vacation locations are offering great deals now. Perhaps you should consider a weekend at the beach or a week in the mountains?

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came: If you are going to go out and spend some money, try to go to places where the owners will know you. It will stretch your dollar. I am studying for an exam so I go to the same cafe every afternoon and drink decaffeinated iced coffee for three hours. I usually have 5 or 6 20 ounce glasses but the proprietor, who knows me, charges me only for one. I spend about $3 for four hours of relaxation. By comparison, a chain coffee house would have charged me about $18.

You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same: You are not the only person who is suffering. Realizing that is a tremendous therapy. Sometimes you cannot tell your close friends or family members what you are feeling about your economic situation but you can open up to a casual acquaintance. Finding a place where you can relax amongst people you know — but not to well — can be a great tonic.

You wanna be where everybody knows your name: Your name is a wonderful thing. It identifies you as a unique individual. Being around people who respect your opinion and seek out conversation with you is important, especially if you are facing economic hardship and cannot seem to attract potential employers. Whether you are meeting for coffee with friends, going for a group run, or sitting in a coffee shop chatting with the owner, seek out human contact. It is worth far more than gold.

You wanna go where people know, people are all the same. You wanna go where everybody knows your name: As is the case in every period of economic contraction, we should all be in this together. If you can help someone out, do so. If you need help, do not be afraid to seek it.

What do you remember about Cheers and what financial lessons can you pull from that show? Are there other shows that have taught you more? If you do not know the theme from Cheers, you can listen to it here.

-Author D. G. Mitchell
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