They call you into the office late one afternoon and the somber faces announce what is coming before anyone utters a word. Once spoken, the sentences are devastating.
Your services are no longer needed. The termination has been swift and sure. The company is moving forward but some people are being left behind. Despite decades of hard work and loyalty, you won’t be making the journey with the team. You began the day as an employee; you finish it as a statistic.
This is the end of the road. Welcome to the club nobody wants to join. You are now unemployed.
The nightmare is real. Each day you must confront one of the most difficult and numbing experiences any person can endure.
There is an overwhelming sense of exile. Ripped from the busy, thriving workplace filled with activity and meaning, you are home alone. Although resumes have been sent and applications filled out, the phone doesn’t ring. Surrounded by walls, real and imagined, the confinement is stifling.
Between feelings of disorientation and depression are moments of rage. Even worse is the terror that comes when examining long-term finances or merely trying to balance this month’s checkbook. The numbers don’t add up but the anxiety does.
You gave them the best years of your life, yet additional years remain. While there’s more behind than ahead, you’re too young to be put out to pasture. Besides, family members depend on your income. What are you going to do for an encore? How will you navigate the trail to the next chapter?
These are difficult questions facing millions of Americans in an uncertain economy. If you aren’t struggling, someone in your inner circle is down and out. What is the best strategy when confronting unemployment? What should you do if a friend, colleague or loved one has lost his job?
This time of transition, even when it is unwanted, can be a season of enormous personal growth. If you can avoid the bitterness that comes with the injustice of displacement, then change can slowly reveal its hidden merits. C.S. Lewis once said: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
The sharp pain of unemployment rouses us from our comfort zone. When our predictable worlds are shattered, we no longer turn a deaf ear to priorities set aside during career-building. Life’s reappraisal can be agonizing but rewarding. Embrace the adjustment and start anew.
Simple answers are in short supply. The road back is sometimes filled with detours into the ditch and exit ramps that go nowhere. You will face rejection and disinterest from potential employers. The harshest criticism may come from the person greeting you in the mirror each morning. Learn to forgive yourself and others.
For friends and former co-workers of the unemployed, the Parable of the Good Samaritan is most instructive. In the tenth chapter of Luke, we learn of a man who is savagely attacked by thieves, stripped of his clothes and left for dead. The victim lies helpless as both a priest and a Levite walk by. While each is aware of the man’s perilous condition, both fail to render assistance.
Finally, a Samaritan traveling on the road stops and shows him compassion. He bandages the man’s wounds, delivers him to an inn and leaves money for his care. At the end of the chapter, Jesus urges those listening to his parable to “go and do likewise.”
This instruction, given nearly 2,000 years ago, is more relevant than ever. The sudden fluctuations in our modern marketplace have shortened the careers of many people. Through no fault of their own, countless individuals have been stripped of their livelihoods and left on life’s journey without a job. Some are staring at financial ruin, even the loss of their home.
If you know a person facing such a dilemma, take time to get involved. Don’t wait to be asked. Offer a listening ear. Take them to lunch. Make a phone call or send an e-mail. Be your brother’s keeper, like the Good Samaritan.
It’s important to give others your attention during their critical hour of need. Such genuine outreach will serve as a reminder that the best years of their lives may be just around the corner. The helping hand offered at this juncture will lift them from despair and point both of you to an even better destination.
Kendall Wingrove is a freelance writer from Okemos, Michigan.