Friday, March 6, 2009


Unemployment in the United States is at its highest rate since 1983. More than 2 million people have lost their jobs in the last two months.

All told, the number of unemployed people climbed to 12.5 million. In addition, the number of people forced to work part time for "economic reasons" rose by a sharp 787,000 to 8.6 million. That's people who would like to work full time but whose hours were cut back or were unable to find full-time work. (Aversa, 6 Mar, 09, para. #9)

I'm not sure what percentage of professional employees have lost their jobs in the last four months but Kevin Hall (2009) of McClatchy Newspaper writes that 180,000 people in the professional and business services sector have been laid off. I personally know of a few professionals who have lost their jobs in and around New York City. This seems to be an interesting phenomenon because unemployment often spikes in over sectors such as manufacturing and production or "blue collar" sectors more so than in professional or "white collar" sectors. At least, I think that it does. No one is safe these days.

I got laid off from a job when I was 42 years old. I was working as a consultant one day. I was on the street the next. My director walked in, said that the consulting company I was working for had been purchased by another company. The leadership had decided to lay off 20% of the people in the company and I was one of them. They paid me for two weeks and asked me to clear out my desk. They laid off another guy who had just got married the Saturday before the announcement came.

That was a depressing moment in my life. It's not only a matter of wondering how I was going to pay the rent and feed myself. I can't imagine the grief or fear that a "bread-winner" feels when she or he looses the family's source of income. Terrible! We tie up so much into the paychecks we earn. Even more, we place so much credence and "worth" into our jobs. We loose something of ourselves when we become unemployed.

Virginia Bola offers these seven coping mechanisms for people who are out of work. The last one stood out for me in terms of thinking of unemployment from a faith perspective:

Be kind to yourself.Your self-confidence, self-esteem and self-regard have all been hit with a steel boot. Actively look at yourself with the eyes of a concerned friend and give yourself the support, sympathy, and goodwill that you would extend to anyone you love who had suffered the same fate.

Jesus offered compassion to the people around him. Many of them were out of work or underemployed. His gospel was a gospel of hope. Many of his followers continued to suffer persecution after he departed from their midst. I'd like to think that one thing we can learn from them and him is that they sought ways to help one another during their mutual times of crisis. It may be such a time for many of us to swallow our pride, admit our fears, pray for God's assistance - especially for other families we know who are struggling, be gentle to others and to ourselves in this time of need, and seek out grace-filled communities of faith and friendship to find shelter during this economic storm.

May our Church offer peace, wisdom, and love to all who come our way in these uncertain days.

Blessings Along The Way,

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