Unemployment

I was laid off from my job with Dell Computer Corp. nearly two years ago. It really hurt. Every day that I didn’t have a job I felt more like a failure as a husband and as a man, and I didn’t feel any better until I finally started working again three-and-a-half months later. If not for Mrs. Happy’s constant encouragement and expressions of love and utter faith in me throughout that time, I don’t know how I would have coped at all. Now it’s my turn to encourage.

She called me today to let me know she was one of the first casualties in a round of layoffs where she works. Her not having a job complicates things for us. It delays our saving for a house, planning for a child, and preparing for the future. It doesn’t kill us, though, or even put us in financial danger. We have made it a point to live a lifestyle that we can maintain on my salary alone.

As I’m writing this, she hasn’t come home yet. She’s still cleaning out her stuff, preparing her space for whatever person with seniority takes over her function. We haven’t had a real chance to talk about how she feels, so at this point I can only guess. I think it’s safe to say she’s upset. However, her reaction to unemployment will be a little different from mine. She will undoubtedly feel bad that we have to delay a few major life decisions, but the monetary concerns will not devastate her. As I said, we can survive on my salary alone. One big difference between her layoff and mine, though, is that I didn’t particularly like my job, while she absolutely loves hers.

When I worked at Dell, I wrote technical manuals explaining how to install and operate server management software. Believe it or not, that gets boring after a while. A while more, and it comes to be tedious. Eventually, one grows to despise it, which I certainly did. In a way, my being laid off actually improved my work situation because it forced me to find a better, more palatable job. For Mrs. Happy, on the other hand, the job she just lost was almost her dream job. She has two passions, and her job fused both of them.

Her first passion is art. She has always loved to express herself through acts of creativity, and encouraged others to do the same. She has inspired me to do so on more that one occasion (you may not appreciate the quality of my work, but I think the sincerity transcends the artistic value). Her second passion is people, particularly people no one wants to deal with, people who need more attention than anyone else. She feels a strong desire to help them, to make them feel like someone cares, to make them emotionally and spiritually strong enough to heal themselves. In her job, she uses art to enable people express the (sometimes hurricane-force) turbulence of their inner selves. She helps people make sense of their own thoughts and better understand their own needs.

She helps the people I believe Jesus would be drawn to, and they flock to her in much the same way they would to Him. She offers them grace and non-judgment, and they respond with love and admiration. As we spoke on the phone earlier, she read me a letter written from one of the people under her care addressed to the top administrator at the institution where she works. The letter expressed overtly hostile feelings and questioned the condition and destination of any soul that would prevent such an obviously remarkable young woman from helping people the way she does. It was a testament to the effect she has on people, though that particular client probably has some work left to do on his anger management issues.

My point is that while my layoff shook my confidence and made me feel like a failure, her layoff actually steals from her an enormous source of personal fulfillment. Not that she will never have another job like it—there is probably an even better job somewhere waiting for her—and not that her job is her only source of fulfillment. But the loss is significant, and I only hope that in the coming months I can be as much an encouragement to her as she was to me.

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