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No magic pill will improve our lot
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Faith in ourselves and not a magic $3 trillion pill is going to help pull our neighbors and communities out of the downward spiral caused by those who enthusiastically answered the siren song of the seven deadly sins.

Pastor Mike Dillman and the congregation at a local First Assembly of God understand that better than most. When the dark days of the foreclosure crisis started descending on the Valley, they didn't wait for a hand-out from Washington, D.C., nor did they cower in fear. They stepped forward in faith armed with the tried and true practices of living within one's means and investing sweat equity instead of riding the enticing speculative wave of fast dollars.

Thirteen months ago, the congregation led by Dillman made a bold move. They bought the poster home for all that was wrong with the foreclosure crisis: People buying homes beyond their financial means, the dregs of society taking over the foreclosed house and trashing it in unspeakable ways while terrorizing the good people of the neighborhood, and a bank clueless on what to do.

It was, without a doubt, the worst home in town when it came to damage done by squatters. Doubters weren't just stunned - some were outraged. They were convinced the housing market was on the verge of a complete collapse and that Dillman was leading his church down the path to financial ruin. Mind you, these weren't members of the congregation but others who accused him of gambling recklessly with the church's money.

They did what everyone thought impossible. After two months of elbow grease and restoring the two-story home, they sold it for a solid return that went to fund various church outreach programs.

America's economy isn't controlled by the government or Wall Street. It is the sum of countless billions of decisions that 305 million Americans like Dillman, you and I make each day. President Obama won't deliver us and certainly Congress won't. The only people who can do that are us.

California's unemployment is approaching 10 percent. It isn't a record as far as benchmarks go, but it does create a psychological impact fed by fear of the unknown.

Those who are keeping their wits about them are preventing the entire deck of cards from collapsing completely on all of us. Those buying fall into three categories. First, there are those buying to live in homes they can call their own. They typically intentionally buy below the maximum they can quality for a mortgage and look for basic housing needs and don't get caught up in the pride and envy of one upping that has driven buyers in the past or the lust for a quick profit.

Then there are long-time investors who are buying, fixing up homes and then reselling them at prices people can afford. Greed isn't in the equation. They just want to make a reasonable profit.

Then there are the first-time housing investors who are taking money out of banks and paying cash for homes. The return from rent, without a doubt, is much higher than having your cash lay around in a bank. Their actions speak to an underlying faith in how solid the economy is despite the non-stop 24-hour gloom and doom on the cable news channels.

Yes, we've hit a soft spot but it isn't quicksand unless, of course, we start wallowing in our self-pity and let our woe-is-me tears undermine us.

There are signs that housing prices have hit bottom in the Valley. That doesn't mean that things are going up any time soon; it could be a long journey across the bottom that could take us into 2010 and beyond.

Counting on Washington, D.C., to save us all is much like thinking you can permanently lose weight you packed on over the years with a quick fix in 60 days. It just isn't going to happen. Getting both your finances and weight under control require lifestyle changes.

Our perception of housing needs and wants has to get back to where it was 50 years ago when the idea of simply owning a home was grand.

Once you get there, then you can understand how men like Dillman can keep their heads when everyone else seems to panic.

They understand we all hold our fate in our own hands as free men who reap what we sow.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail