Uncertain times bring different kind of reward
June 24, 2009
There are a lot of people struggling right now—many, including myself, fighting the good fight at an age we thought we'd get to coast a little.
Now we don't know what that is. That was a different time—an era not that long ago. One income families, two vehicles in the driveway and color tv sets all the way around. Family vacations, Easter dresses and school shopping. Homes cost less than the average price of a vehicle these days. Empty nests meant freedom and fun for the fifty-somethings. Things made sense: You work hard, make a fair wage, save a little bit and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Today nothing seems to make sense, especially when it comes to stability and security. It's all about the bottom line. Survival. Every man for himself.
Along with the women of all ages I've come across in a similar boat, I know a couple of men who've had the rugs pulled out from under them, both in their early fifties. Both still raising kids. Both exemplary employees, hard workers, men of honor who live by their word.
For one of them, this is his second time at starting over in the past decade—he was an early victim of the September 11th economic fallout we've all kind of forgotten. Yep. Seven good years with a company ends with a pink slip at middle age.
Still, he doesn't stop trying. After many months he lands a job. Moves the family to a new state. Buys a home in a nice neighborhood. Enrolls the young son in school. Works hard. Lives modestly. Few extras, no flashy, shiny new things. In short, they live within their means—and while it's not exactly Easy Street it feels pretty solid.
Not. It's all an illusion. We are forced again to learn that despite the assertions in the incredibly timeless and somewhat foretelling 'Wall Street' movie, greed is not good. Truly. Companies disappear, jobs evaporate, middle aged people with teenaged children no longer have security, stability, and even much reason for optimism.
It is unimaginable for some. Reality for many. June Cleaver lives no more and people still Love Lucy but there's little joy in the antics of homelessness and hunger.
Still, the earth turns, the sun shines. I hear about something that happened to one of the newly unemployed families at the son's football game. Of course the kid's a straight-A student and participates in every sport imaginable. He's a chip off the old block and that's saying a lot as his old man is stellar. A hard worker. Dependable. A man of his word. A man who again has to start over at age fifty-something.
Anyhow, someone neither parent knows comes up to them after the game. He's an older gentleman, a college professor or teacher—my girlfriend can't remember. Maybe he's even retired, she's not sure because she doesn't know him and has never seen him before.
He says that he's heard of their recent situation and that he'd like to help send their son to football camp. He says he'd like to pay the tuition.
The parents don't even know about a football camp. The kid, knowing the kind of pressure they've been under and the obligations they must meet, doesn't even bring it up to them. He doesn't want them to have to worry about paying out any extra money. He doesn't even ask.
This gentleman is a perfect stranger. His kind gesture makes my girlfriend and I weep. It's an odd place to be needy when all you've done all your life is work hard. Maybe that's where the tears come from—I know this first hand as the recipient of true kindness and helpfulness.
Even in the midst of such uncertainty and struggle I'm reminded again that what goes around comes around. Kindness always wins.
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