Most of us go through our daily lives worrying about petty concerns. When am I going to buy a present for a child’s birthday party this weekend? When am I going to fit in my weekly grocery store trip? When can the plumber come out to fix the dripping faucet? These worries are mainly focused on time, rather than the resources needed to accomplish them. Luckily, with two parents working, my family has the means to live right now without worrying about how we are going to afford the endless daily expenses. For households in the grasp of unemployment, these tasks take on a whole new meaning. I would argue it is even more challenging to be unemployed in Brookline given the high cost of living and general affluence that permeates throughout the town.
Recently, I ran into an acquaintance after picking up my daughter from school. I know this man only casually through school pick-ups and drop-offs, but we got to talking, and he proceeded to tell me that he recently lost his job. He was in the process of applying for other jobs, as well as filing for unemployment. Money was clearly tight, and you could sense the urgency in his voice and an eagerness to get back into the working world. It took a lot of courage for him to be so candid about his situation to a relative stranger like me and I was moved by his strength and determination. Clearly, this was a man who did not have a problem putting his pride aside and asking for help– a difficult, but very wise and emotionally healthy move.
I shared with him my professional background and told him I would be happy to look at his resume and pass it along to anyone I thought might be able to help. He was grateful, and by the end of the conversation we had exchanged contact information and had a follow-up plan of sorts in place. He went on to tell me how challenging a time this was for his family and his sorrow that soon if things did not change, he would have to take his children out of activities that they loved doing simply because of the costs.
A few days ago, I ran into the man again. I told him that I had sent his resume to a few contacts, but had not heard back yet. Again, he thanked me and then we started talking about afternoon and weekend plans. I was headed to a sports store to buy lacrosse equipment for my daughter who is signed up to play town lacrosse this spring. He was heading to BJ’s Wholesale Club to buy all he could before canceling his membership. “When you are unemployed, $50 a year for membership is just too much to spend,” he said. Here I was about to spend $50 on athletic paraphernalia for an activity that my daughter might not even enjoy. It struck me just how thin the line is between everything being ok and everything beginning to fall apart.
Despite having not yet found a job, I have to believe that this man’s willingness to share his story and to openly network will serve him well. We should all take a page out of his book and network on behalf of others. Given that the vast majority of people find jobs through their personal and/or professional contacts, every person has the power to help someone who is unemployed by just sending an email or making a phone call. Take the time and do it. Your connection could be the one that makes a meaningful difference in someone’s life.
By Casey Hassenstein