Friday, May 8, 2009

When someone you know is a statistic

This weekend, our family marks one year since my husband lost his job. He’s hardly alone. In Indiana, the “official” unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent, and that’s not including those no longer on the unemployment compensation rolls or have settled for part-time or underpaying positions.

Walk down your street, look down the aisle of your church pew or scan your conference room table, and you’ll likely see someone who’s become a statistic in this economy. Or their roommate, spouse, significant other or family member is.

There’s a lot of people needing support out there. And not just financially.

So today, I’m going off-topic and offering a little unsolicited advice for the nine out of 10 (or whatever the stats really are) Americans who are still working today.

If you know someone who is out of work, is underemployed or is otherwise impacted by unemployment in their household:

  • Realize that people need more support as time passes. While many may be able to eek by for a month or two, as time passes and savings wane, uncertainly and stress levels increase. Moral support is needed more than ever!
  • Offer friendship, not a handout. One of the things that impressed me most about this journey was when a friend asked me to teach her to make Chinese – then came over with groceries. We had a great evening, she learned how to cook Chinese, and she was able to help our family in a way that didn’t feel like a “handout.”
  • If you can’t relate, it’s OK. Saying things like “It’s a bad economy” (really?) or “I was a broke college student once” makes you seem callous. And frankly, it doesn’t make the other party feel any better. Just as I can’t relate completely to my single friend who’s worried about her safety net in a few months, she can’t completely relate to the fact that our income is cut in half and we have $400 available each month to cover utilities, daily needs, medicine, day care when my husband is in class, and anything else required to care for our family. Admit you can’t completely relate. But be there to listen.
  • We’re happy for your success, but don’t rub it in. We don’t necessarily want to hear how you can now pay an extra $1,000 a month on your student loans or share every intricate detail about your new car you bought to celebrate a new job.
  • Don’t isolate us. Unemployment is isolating enough due to embarrassment, frustration or lack of resources. Ask how it’s going. And listen. Or talk about politics, sports or the other things that happen the other 128 hours or so of the week when you're not at work.
  • Reconnect with us cheaply. Hang out with a cookout, for a beer at home, or a pizza and movie night. Friendship shouldn’t have to end just because someone can’t go to dinner or an expensive evening out.
  • Don’t assume we wouldn’t be interested in a lead. When you’re trying to keep a roof over your head or support your family, flipping burgers, working retail or signing up with a temp agency isn’t above us. Even if it’s not ideal, it feels good to be doing something about your financial situation.
  • Offer a networking coffee, particularly later in the search when frustrations begin to increase.
  • Most of all, just listen.

3 comments:

lisa said...

((HUGS)) I have been reading your post...You are right on point with all those feelings..in the 23 years we have been married my husband was laid off 4 times. One was for 6 months when the job market was pretty good but was on a decline for defense workers.There is one forgotten thing and that is what your husband is going through and the emotions of it all...as wives we must carry a huge load lifting up their spirits..My huband kept telling me he needed my faith to get us through this. I don't know if you have tried food banks to help stretch the budget..it helped us alot back then..we couldn't get help with food stamps or medical because we owned a van that they felt we should sell...but it was our only mode of transportation and we didn't own it at the time..we were making payments on it..I am praying for everyone who is out of work..My heart goes out to you and I try and help with a listening ear and support where I can...If you do need someone to talk to please I know it isn't easy and yes everyone disappears on you during our layoffs..you knew who your true friends are...Lisa

Rjs said...

Thanks. I've pretty much come to peace with our situation, not that I enjoy it.

What drove this post was that I had a conversation with an old friend of mine the other day who is 3 months into her unemployment. I sense she feels she's on her own against the world to tackle this.

And that's not right.

Corie said...

Hey girl. I think about you often and wonder how you're doing. I know I can't relate completely, but with two kids, a mortgage and the million other things that crop up unexpectedly, I know things are hard. Keep the faith, and stay strong. You'll make it through and will be stronger on the other side. When you reach the point of too much frustration, please call! I'll keep my mouth shut (promise!) and listen. :o) Hugs from Danville!