Be Kind To The Downtrodden

February 27th, 2007

The following post was really hard to write. I’ve been thinking about it for months. As you read this you might wonder about JibberJobber’s current state and future. Don’t worry about that – this is all stuff during my time unemployed. Currently JibberJobber has the capital and cash flow for at least the next 3 years. The point of this post is summed up in the very last paragraph.

Offer someone a helping handI went from General Manager to Unemployed (yes, that has a capital “U”). I was the average American, living from paycheck-to-paycheck – but at least I could pay for things like my brakes going out, or a plumbing leak. And overnight I became the neighbor, friend or guy in church that “didn’t have a job.” It was embarrassing, degrading and unsettling.

I really didn’t expect help from anyone because when I saw people between jobs I didn’t help them. I didn’t know what I could offer them. I couldn’t imagine taking some of my money to give to them as charity. I can see now that I was a Scrooge. Partly because I didn’t want to give my loot away, and partly because I didn’t know how to do it gracefully.

But over this last year my family has been the recipient of various forms of charity. And I’ve discovered just how valuable a little bit of thought and help means. I hope this post can inspire you to be a little kinder, a little more open-minded, and maybe even pay it forward for someone that you know that is having problems right now.

Here are some of the most amazing, meaningful things that have happened to us since we’ve been laid off (some where anonymous, some where not):

  • Someone left us $600 in gift cards to our local grocery store.
  • People left us clothes and food on our porch.
  • Someone paid $200 to a utility bill (about 3 or 4 months worth).
  • Good friends who had been out of work for months brought over two boxes of food and shared “survival techniques” for about an hour, leaving us in much better spirits.
  • Someone left $100 in our mailbox, with a very kind note.
  • Various church members chipped in and asked our congregation leader to give us some cash for Christmas.
  • A family sponsored us for Christmas. Our kids got amazing toys and clothes, stuff that we wouldn’t have bought even if we had a job!
  • Our neighbor brought over frozen dinners from MyGirlfriendsKitchen – very helpful considering my wife taught piano until about 5:30 and both of us were way stressed to pre-plan dinners.
  • My wife’s good friend invited her out to Chile’s for a lunch – just the girls. Something that we wouldn’t budget for, a very nice treat, and encouragement to make it through.
  • A piano student’s mom paid an extra $120 one month. Just because.
  • My wife went to a movie/lunch play date with the kids and another mom insisted on paying for our family.
  • Our parents immediately chipped in with loans – no terms, no expectations.
  • My dad said “I’ll expect you to be out of work for at least six months” – I couldn’t believe that, I thought I’d be back to work in about four weeks. But he was right. The job search was long and fruitless. It was incredible knowing that his support would not turn sour after a couple of months. It was depressing enough, I didn’t need a major supporter to have a deadline associated with the support.
  • He also bought me a cell phone, attached to his plan, and he called me every day. See, he had been unemployed for a while after law school, and knows how discouraging it can be, and wanted to “chat” and gauge my mental state. I think it cost about $10/month extra but it allowed me to have a cell phone in hopes of getting a call from an employer, and the show of support was invaluable.
  • People would share produce with us – a bag of fruits and vegetables. It was nice to not worry that our kids were going to get scurvy from a no-produce diet.
  • When I cut my hand open my doctor didn’t charge me. And later I went in for something else and he didn’t charge me. I didn’t abuse this, but how amazing it was that the Doctor considered my situation and saved me over $70 for each of these visits.
  • Our neighbor-plumber came to fix things on two ocassions. And we never got a bill. They said to not worry about it.
  • Many friends and neighbors would quickly offer us contacts. This cost nothing but allowed us to begin networking (remember, we were fairly new to the area and didn’t have a bunch of network contacts).
  • A neighborhood family that owns a successful business invited our family to go to a local amusement park with their company for the day. We NEVER would have afforded this, and thought this type of celebration would have been years away. All we had to pay was gas, and even then they gave us some spending cash.

I’m not sharing this so you can see how cool we are. Or how blessed my family has been.

Its hard to receive charity. It’s humbling. I went too school to darn long to have to scrape by like this.

I’m sharing this with the hope that you can reconsider someone that is in need, and without judging their situation, why they are there or what they should be doing, figure out a meaningful way to help them, lift their spirits, help them get through one more day or one more week.

Each of the things listed above (and more that aren’t listed) have brought a huge amount of gratitude, tears, and a desire to be more helpful to those that are downtrodden.

Please, think of someone to help this week. And do something significant for them (it may be insignificant to you). You have no idea how much of an impact you will have.

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3 Responses to “Be Kind To The Downtrodden”

  1. Jason,
    Heartfelt post. You are taking a stand for compassion. Giving to someone who needs it without judging them is good for your soul. I remember asking my son give a father of two $20 and how it made *my* day. He just seemed so ashamed to accept it. I told him I do it gladly because I’ve seen tough times myself.
    It’s a good cure for feeling sorry for yourself (if anyone’s ever done that).
    It is moving how generous people have been with you and your family. I recognize that where I’m at is a lot because of the generosity of others, including bloggers.
    Janet

  2. Liz Handlin says:

    What a lovely post.

  3. Jason,

    I LOVE this post. Thank you– it was a delight.

    I’ve experienced this myself recently, being technically unemployed while working the crazy hours at the kiosk during December for The Hundred Dollar Business, and now having transitioned to my new job in Idaho.

    No one wants to not be able to provide for themselves or deal with the stress & misc. of finding a new job and re-establishing yourself economically, and to have extra support from family, friends, and community is such a treasure. Those kind words and acts really do go a long way.

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