A Face of the Recession

I posted this article over on HubPages (I no longer post there now) about four years ago at the pinnacle (or at least close to it) of the recession of which we still have not recovered.  The economy is still stagnant and unemployment, despite falling unemployment, is huge with about 20 million Americans unemployed. Lots of people have given up trying to find jobs. In any case, I thought my readers might enjoy this story.

Hard Times

Although I am retired, I still get up early in the morning, get some breakfast and go run a few errands. When I say get up early, I still get up at 6:30AM. Been doing that for years. It is hard to break out of even in retirement. Yes, there is a lot of traffic that time in the morning. But, I am use to it. In fact, it doesn't bother me at all.

Over the past three months or so, I have noticed this one man, who appears to be in his early or mid forties, walking along a busy road in my area. I have seen him cross six lanes of traffic at a busy intersection before. He is always carrying a toolbox and appears to always be in a hurry. I didn't know how far he had to walk or where he works. I had seen him walk in some of the coldest, wet weather we have had in many years. This has been a terrible winter for our area. We are not accustomed to it. Many times while driving past this man I have started to stop and offer him a ride to wherever he was going. I've just never been the type of person who would pick up a hitchhiker or even someone who looked like they needed a ride such as this man. You never know what you are picking up in this day and time.

Two weeks ago, we had a hellacious rain storm. I mean rain was coming down in buckets, wind was blowing so hard the rain was going sideways. Crazy fool that I am, I still got up to do my morning routine. Traffic was at a turtle's pace along this busy road that I mentioned earlier. Of course, I saw this same poor individual with his toolbox and what appeared to be a plastic bag that you would get at a grocery store to cover his head. Finally, I said to hell with it. So, I pulled my truck over in front of this man, rolled down the passenger window and asked him if he needed a ride to work. I thought the worst he could say was "no." He looked at me with the probably the happiest grin I have seen since last Christmas. He threw his toolbox in the bed of my pickup truck and got into the truck. We made introductions and I asked him where I could take him on this terrible day. He told me he had a part-time job at Home Depot. He'd appreciate it if i could take him there. I told him that would be no problem at all.

Thomas (not his real name) said he had been hoping someone would pick him up for the longest of times (I made a mental note to slap myself when I got home) . He said it got old carrying that toolbox to work. He went on to say he had a job at a local shipyard as a pipe fitter for the past 17 years, but got laid off about 18 months ago. About six months after he lost his job, the bank foreclosed on his house and his car. So, that was the reason he was walking. The job he had at Home Depot working in the Plumbing Department paid "about twenty-five percent" of what he had been making at the shipyard. Thomas said after he got through with his day time job, he had a night time job as a security guard at a nearby office complex. His wife lost her job working at a Day Care Center. She was now taking in laundry and ironing for people. All their income together still equaled much less than what he was bringing home from the shipyard. I looked at Thomas as he finished telling his story. I saw the face of a man who was tired, beaten and almost defeated by this recession we all have endured. They depend on the local food bank and mission house for food. Oh, and Thomas has three children to support also. Thomas said he didn't know how much more they could take of this. Living day to day, making it on the generosity of strangers wasn't what he was brought up to do. He had always worked for a living, ever since he was 12 years old.

As I dropped Thomas off to start his day off at Home Depot, I told him to wait for me every morning at a certain intersection. I could at least help him get to work so he wouldn't be dead tired when he got there. Instead of walking three miles every morning, he would just have to walk about 500 feet from the tiny FEMA trailer where he and his wife and three children live. Thomas hung his head down and thanked me for showing him a simple kindness. I think Thomas didn't want me to see the tears in his eyes. And that's ok. I know what it feels like to be in the shoes of Thomas. I told him I had been there before...in the early 80s recession. But, I also told him, I did survive and he will survive too. 

I write this post not to toot my own horn about what little I am doing for this man. But, to make this hub so as to point out there are still people who are suffering greatly during this "recovering economy" that we hear so much about from the Obama Administration. There are many "Thomases" out there who are hurting. There are many people who still need help like Thomas. If you can just do a little something to ease the burden of one person, you will be amazed how good it makes you feel.


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