Unemployment Assistance

My pulse kicked into overdrive when I read the subject line of a recent e-mail from a friend: “Bad News.”

I took a deep breath as I opened the message and read the lines of text. My friend had lost his job. The previous day, with no prior warning, he had been let go from a position he had occupied for the past seven years. The company was undergoing reorganization. His boss had decided to wipe the slate clean and start fresh—new younger workers with less experience could be hired for considerably less money. Needless to say, my friend was left in the lurch. He’s married, the father of a 2-year-old toddler and has a mortgage on his home.

What’s so odd about that scenario, you might ask. In these difficult economic times many folks are in the same predicament. Ordinarily, I would have to agree with you. Except in this instance, my friend is a family physician. He’s bilingual and has spent most of his career working with the poor and the indigent. He’s competent, conscientious and cares deeply about the patients he serves. So why was he let go? Although he’s asked, his questions have fallen on deaf administrative ears. Perhaps he wasn’t productive enough to pump out yet another patient with a myriad of medical problems every 12 minutes, who knows?

My friend subsequently drew up a list of the medical needs of his most complicated patients and forwarded it to the administrator of the clinic where he worked—the same administrator who had in fact let him go. My friend wanted his replacement to have the background information to be able to deliver good care to his former patients.

In the interim period, as luck would have it, my friend happened to reestablish contact with an acquaintance from years ago—a wandering sort of sage, who was practically homeless at the time. Out of the blue this fellow called up my friend to chat. When he learned that my friend had recently lost his job, this fellow offered to send him a bit of money to tide him over.

My friend was astounded at the offer. It wasn’t as if he needed the money; he has always been prudent with his finances and will do just fine in the long run. No, it was the fact that this homeless fellow had made a sincere gesture to help, even though he had little to spare for himself.

My friend wrote that he felt like the Jimmy Stewart character in “It’s A Wonderful Life”—George Bailey returns home after his Walpurgisnacht wanderings through the streets of Pottersville to be greeted by family and friends, who dig deep into their pockets to raise the funds to support him in his time of need.

I am confident that my friend will soon have another job. People with his skills, talent and experience don’t stay unemployed for long. But even the unemployed man who has the poorest of true friends is rich beyond measure.

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3 comments on “Unemployment Assistance

  1. ~ t says:

    You can bet if he’d worked for a health care provider that catered to more “upscale” patients, he’d still be employed. What happened isn’t surprising in this world,
    it’s been the life story of our miserable race.

  2. Kawika says:

    Sadly, when we work for others we are their creatures. I have physician friends on Kauai who suffered similar fates. Hopefully, your friend will open his own practice — after a year or two he will be thriving.

  3. I read your story in PULSE, and decided to see the website. This story grips me more than any of them, although I really loved the enlightening review of “The Elements of Style”. I liked your story in PULSE, too. I really loved that “A tree grows in Brooklyn” many years ago, and I had forgotten what the last part was. To be dying of alcoholism at 34 is pretty awful. But that wife got to me, trying to convince the doctor to leave it off the death certificate, even after she had given up on him and started seeking a divorce. I worry about their son. I am glad to have gotten to see your work. Thanks, and thanks for the stylish and clear, compassionate way you have presented these good stories.

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