Dear Unemployed Friend,
I address you in this letter as “friend”, though we have never met. I hope this is not presumptuous of me. I realize that we are not friends in the literal sense of the word or perhaps the way society would define a friend. I don’t know your name. I have not seen your face or ever talked to you, but I have been thinking about you a lot. Every day in fact. You may live in my city or my country…or you may not. You may live next door or you may live many thousands of miles from where I live. Either way, I still think of you. I imagine you. I imagine your life and your days. Though we have not met, I think of you as a friend.
I am not in your situation. Yet. I am one of the fortunate ones. I am eternally grateful for that, but every day I know that my luck could change. One day you and I could be in the same shoes. I know this.
I imagine your life each day. I imagine you rising in the morning, having your coffee and going to your computer….again. I imagine the love/hate relationship you have with your computer. I imagine you checking your email every hour hoping for a response from a recruiter or an employer. I imagine the knot in your stomach each time your in-box is empty.
I imagine you combing the ads on the job websites: Craigslist, Monster, CareerBuilder, etc. I do not know the names of all the job websites as you do. Yet.
I imagine the glimmer of hope in your heart each time you send off a resume for a position that you are ideal for (if the job description is to be believed). I imagine the slow gradual despair each evening as another day has gone by and you realize that no one is going to contact you.
I imagine the anxiety each time you check your bank account balance. I imagine your sigh as you open your mailbox and find more bills that you don’t know how you will pay. I imagine you at the supermarket walking the aisles searching for deals and discounts and generic brands.
I imagine your sadness as you realize that the holidays are coming and you won’t be able to put gifts under the tree. I imagine your worry as you think about the pain in your stomach or the ache in your head and wonder if it is a serious medical issue or caused by stress. I imagine your fear as you remember once again that you can’t go to the doctor because you don’t have health insurance.
I also imagine your sense of humor. I imagine you laughing with your family and friends even with the unpaid bills in the back of your mind and the worry in your heart.
I imagine your belief that you must put up a good front for those you love – so they will not worry about you; so that they will not think you a “whiner”; so that you will not depress them with your troubles.
I imagine you looking at the calendar counting the days until your unemployment insurance runs out. I imagine your fear as the number of days becomes smaller.
I imagine how much you are focused on Time. We are all focused on Time in our lives, but I imagine that Time is an even bigger focus in your life than mine. I imagine that, for you, Time is everything. I imagine that Time is your enemy. I imagine all the different ways you worry about Time: the rent due on the first of the month; the due date of each of your credit cards; your child’s birthday coming up and the gift you cannot afford to buy; the overdue electric bill; and the worry about how long Con Edison will wait before they shut off the electricity.
I imagine your fear when you think about your age. If you are young or just out of college, I imagine your worry that employers will think that you are too young or too inexperienced. If you are middle-aged or older, I imagine your worry that employers will think that you have passed your prime because everyone says it is a “youth-based society” after all.
No matter your age, I imagine the constant worry in your heart that you will never have another job, that you will become the permanently unemployed.
I imagine the anticipation mixed with fear each time the phone rings: is it an employer or a bill collector? I imagine you holding your breath as you screen your calls, listening to the answering machine pick up, your outgoing message, the beep — and then the voice of the unknown caller who will give you good news or bad.
I imagine your heart racing after an interview as you rewind the conversation over and over in your head hoping you said all the right things and didn’t say anything that would cause you to be rejected.
I imagine your frustration when you realize that you will have to cancel your cable service. I imagine your sadness as you realize you must tell your daughter that she will no longer be able to watch her beloved Disney channel because there is no money.
I imagine the lunch and dinner invitations you turn down, embarrassed to tell your friends the reason you must decline.
I imagine the anxious feeling every time you encounter a new person you know will inevitably ask the dreaded question, “so what do you do?”. I imagine the sinking feeling in your gut each time you reply: “I am unemployed.”
I imagine the fury you feel watching the news as you watch the ridiculous endless, petty battle of our leaders who have no clue about your circumstances, yet make terrible decisions (or no decisions) that affect you directly.
I imagine your anxiety each night as you climb into bed and think about the hundreds of resumes you have sent out and the handful of responses you have received. I imagine your dwindling hope at 5:00PM each evening as another day passes without a single email or phone call from a single employer.
I imagine your fear and shame each time you try to push the thought out of your mind that you might have to move in with your parents.
Even as I imagine all of the above, I know that the deep, complicated, frustrating emotions you are feeling each day are something I can never truly imagine.
I write to you today to let you know that somebody cares. I cannot give you a job, but I am one of many “somebodys” who care. There are more out here like me. There are even more out here like you. I wish like hell that I could do something tangible to help you. I wish I owned a huge corporation with many open positions. A silly wish perhaps. I will never be the owner of a large corporation. It doesn’t stop me from wishing.
I wish that I could give you something more than emotional support in words. Words will not pay your bills. This I know. Still, I want you to know the incredible respect I have for you for the courage you show each day, for your resilience, for your perseverance, and for your sense of humor.
From my heart to yours, I want to pass on the feeling of hope and faith that I have inside me that this terrible time will pass for you, that things will get better. I want the faith, hope, belief, compassion and respect that I feel for your situation and your resilience to be contagious. I want all of the positive belief I have in the power of human beings to overcome any obstacle to be passed on to you like a virus from my heart to yours.
Most of all, I want you to know that even if we never meet, I will be out here in the world thinking of ways that I can give back to try and make your life better again. I will write my Congressman, join rallies and protests, tweet messages of hope. I will do all I can to make sure that your plight is not forgotten. I will encourage others to do the same.
The impact of my actions may not reach you directly, but above all, I want you to know that you are not alone.
Words cannot change circumstances, but sometimes they can feed the heart like fuel in an engine to keep a body and soul moving forward even in the darkest of days.
I hope so. I hope words help a little. Words can’t solve the problems above, but I hope they can give you a little strength…at least for another hour, another day.
Words are all I’ve got for you today and I know that they are not nearly enough, but it felt important to pass them onto you anyway.
We may never meet, but you are not alone. I think about you every day.
From my heart to yours, I think of you as a friend. Bless you. Bless your courage. Keep going.
With infinite love and respect,