By Mariam Williams
A few months ago I attended a business networking luncheon sponsored by an organization whose members were determined not to participate in the recession. Each member even wore a button stating the sentiment. Although I probably had an unemployment check stub in my purse, and I was neither the employee of a business that gives entrepreneurs loans nor of one that depends on referrals, I participated as actively in the meeting as I did (and still do) in the recession.
At some point, one of the officers of the group invited all members and guests to join him in a game. He would throw out a scenario, and anyone whose business or skills applied to that scenario was to stand and explain how. For example, if he said, “A family of four is relocating to this city,” the real estate agents in the room would stand and say they would help the family find a place to live; the contractors would fix or remodel the house; the interior decorators and furniture salespersons would help furnish it; the therapist would help the family adjust to the move; and the divorce attorney would be there if therapy failed. (Seriously, someone stood up and said that.)
The final example – I don’t remember the second – was of a new restaurant opening. I stood up among the commercial real estate agents, contractors, material suppliers, event planners, website designers, radio sales associates, and marketing specialists. I could write, proofread or edit the content on the restaurateur’s website, come up with a slogan if he didn’t already have one, write the scripts for his radio commercials and write the press release about the grand opening event. See. Out of three scenarios, I could contribute something to one of them.
I could contribute something.
I’ve written about this before, about this feeling that I’m gifted in such a way that is useless to my present situation and quite possibly to the nation’s future. The feeling came up again Wednesday morning as I heard CNN’s Roland Martin’s segment on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. He interviewed Dr. Wayne Watson, Chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, about the importance of funding two-year and community colleges. The Obama Administration recently unveiled a plan to pour $12 million into community colleges. While four-year colleges still have their place, Watson explained, stimulus money is going to green jobs and to shovel-ready projects, jobs many laid-off workers can be certified to perform within nine months through the abundance of retraining programs offered at community colleges. Jobs that may start at $16 to $28 per hour, but that can pay $55,000 to $75,000 annually. Other job-seekers could sharpen their skills for the jobs of the future with an associate’s degree and earn even more. You graduate from a four-year college, Watson pointed out, and it can be several years before you even get close to a yearly salary of $55,000.
Do I feel cheated? For all the reasons I gave here, yeah, maybe a little. But the heavier feeling is that of uselessness, of being one among many thousands of unemployed writers (or unemployed-something-elses-turned-writers) trying to believe there’s something I can write about new construction and solar panels besides website content and press releases.
You know, something clicked for me when Michael Jackson died, or more accurately, when I saw news coverage of the memorial service and reactions to his death from people in London. The day he died, a spontaneous dance party broke out in a public square I couldn’t identify. Brits of all colors sang “Billie Jean” together. The camera zoomed in on the crowd enough for me to catch a man of Middle Eastern descent, his head covered in a blue turban, dancing and singing in the middle of the party. When singers at the memorial service performed “Heal the World,” our neighbors across the Pond, who were watching the service on outdoor screens, left their huddles of friends to link arms with strangers watching the service, and sang along. I thought, “That’s what it’s all about. That’s what art is supposed to do.” It really can enrich the human spirit. It truly can unite us in spite of our differences. It is inspiring.
My gifts aren’t worthless. They’re just not worth any stimulus money. And it’s damn hard to find an employer seeking someone with these skills.
© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.