Once a month, I visit a friend who shows me how to get back to basics. Quilting, sewing, things I should know how to do in case my electricity fails or I decide to become Amish. I return the favor my showing her how to make bread and cut cuticles. Life saving tips mine.
Over the last few years, I've noticed her next door neighbor come and go, driving nice cars-not extravagant German models, but not the All-American mini-van either. The three year old neighborhood is squarely middle-class, full of two-story homes with fences and a playground across the street. Both friend and neighbor are behind on their mortgages, always days away from the foreclosure notice, but each scraping together the money to stave off the banker at the last minute. Both women work part time in different professions. The difference is that while both men have lost their jobs in the last two years, my friend's husband has started a business (that's struggling, but revenue is increasing a bit each month) while the other man has yet to gain employment.
Today, when I saw the neighbor walk out of his home in a dress shirt and tie, slack and shiny shoes, I was excited for him (whom I've never met btw).
"Looks like he got a job," I said to my friend. It was an encouraging sign in a dark economy.
My friend shook her head sadly. "No. He's going to the grocery store."
She proceeded to explain that he'd taken to dressing up to go out for errands. At first, his wife, explained to my friend, he did it to hide the fact he was unemployed. He'd only go after 6 pm, when those from the neighborhood and church were likely to see him. He refused to go during 8-5, because it was 'a sure sign he was unemployed,' he told his wife.
After a year, his wife told him to stop pretending and be honest.
If I look successful, someone might see me and offer me a job," That made sense, my friend and I agreed. Though I still thought it had something to do with not telling other she saw.
When I left her home, I thought about the image and reality of a provider, be it male or female. I believe another reason to keep up appearances is to avoid the questions...if I see a scruffy, downtrodden male, I don't instinctively thing "out of work schmuck," but that might be how the person I'm looking at feels. On the flip side, acknowledging unemployment opens up a whole new world that's closed with the lie of employment continues.
For example, when I learn of an acquaintance, friend, or even friend of a friend, is laid off or has had work hours cut back, I always try to think of a creative way to re-employ the individual. Even an hour here or there of temp work is preferable to sitting at home and stewing. We've all been there. We might be there again. Rog doesn't believe in much, but he's adamant about good karma. "You help the world, and it's (the karma) going to come around and help you," he has said time and again.
I'll give you an example. We were new to my daughter's school when a mother asked me about talking to her son. He was a recent college graduate and "needed a bit of direction." Would I speak to him, she asked. Sure, I said. An hour after the call, and a few resume changes later, the graduate was interviewed at a premier outdoor company here in Seattle, and thanks to his own skills and intelligence, was hired. What I gave was no more than a bit of direction and guidance so his resume would get past the filters and he could get the interview.
It's been two years since that time, and we recently had the senior hiring manager of the company over for dinner (what are the odds of that right?). He knew we had a girl on the cusp of learning to ski, so he'd also brought along a set of skis, boots and a helmut for her. Rog started talking about the fantastic job the on-line group of the company was doing, and the man said "yeah, and it's all due to this kid we hired, and he was local." I asked for his name, and sure enough, the 'kid' was the same graduate that I'd previously spoken with abt the job. Rog then informed this man of the backstory of me talking with this young man way back when.
"That's good karma for you," the guy said, smiling.
Thinking back to the mom, I'm sure it wasn't easy for her to bring the subject up to me, a new member of her circle. She might have wondered if I'd think her son was a loser, unintelligent or misdirected. Nonetheless, she forged ahead and asked the question, because, well, that's what moms do. It's a bit harder for spouses, who might be sworn to secrecy. Pride, fear, judgment; those concerns and issues stand in the way of allowing someone to help another attain gainful employment.
According to the economists, it's only going to get tougher for most folks. Perhaps me and my family. One never knows. If you see me in the checkout line all dressed up (and it's not Sunday, though I shouldn't be there on the Sabbath anyway, so if I am, scold me), ask away. I won't take offense. I might be trolling for a job. In the meantime, take a second look at those who are there, looking all sharp. They might need your help one day. Or that day. Be prepared to give it. Good karma comes back around.