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Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009 04:57 am

What it’s like to be unemployed

I am six months into an involuntary sojourn outside the full-time compensated workforce … and I gotta tell you, I don’t like it.

Oh, sure. Some may think I am living high on the hog, thanks to all the handouts I get from the big-time elite socialists in Springfield and Washington, D.C.

But ask the unemployed family member, friend or former co-worker about the devastation unemployment can have on families. With nearly 10 percent of the state’s population jobless, it’s likely you know somebody involuntarily not working.

However, I do appreciate the fact our government provides a temporary safety net during tough economic times. In fact, I want to personally thank the state workers at the local  employment security office who have been nothing but professional, kind and helpful.

Being out of work has given me time to pursue new options, such as supplementing my unemployment benefits with my own little writing business.

But any perceived perks of being unemployed are as nothing compared to getting paid an honest wage to do an honest day’s work. I am among many hardworking Americans currently unable to exercise our skills and experience in a meaningful, financially viable way.

In other words, we need jobs. We want to work. We will work.

Don’t forget: Critics of the recent extension of unemployment benefits all have jobs. Darned good jobs, some of which are taxpayer supported. They get paid to tell you that “Socialism is bad, ’m-kay?”

Listen, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Illinois’ unemployment rate, 9.3 percent, is higher than the national rate of 8.6 percent. Here in Morgan County, it’s 6.6 percent; Sangamon, 6 percent; Cass, 5.8 percent; Scott, 7 percent; and Macoupin, 8.1 percent.

But it’s far too easy to forget that those statistics represent people. Becoming unemployed means a lot more than figuring out what to do with 40 empty hours a week.

It means figuring out how to eat, pay the bills. Keep the lights on. It means possibly uprooting your family, leaving loved ones and friends, schools and familiar neighborhoods to follow the work. Taking a gamble that it will pay off.

For anyone who has not been looking for a job in a while, it’s worth a peek to see how it’s done now. It could be your job is next on the chopping block.

Like everything else, much of job searching – even arranging to receive unemployment benefits – can be done online. If you don’t know much about computers, you’d better learn.

I don’t know how other jobseekers feel, but I am not shy about the fact I am unemployed. Nor am I ashamed. I want to find a job. I will have one. Regardless of my life’s recent downturn, I know that I will again have a full-time job.

There is no other option. Unless I count the one I saw again today.

The battered old man with the cardboard sign stood back straight against the sign at the three-way stop outside Super WalMart. He was there yesterday, too. With the same sign, a perfect example of simplicity in advertising: WILL WORK.

I could not imagine some soccer mom on the way to WalMart, stopping to hire the grizzled, unshaven man to weed the garden or paint the front porch, and saying sure, just hop on into the mini-van with the kids.

But the reality of joblessness is just a few bad choices away for anybody. It helps no one to deny the spark of divinity we should see in each one of us, no matter our physical condition.

Rick Wade is a central Illinois freelance writer and a former editor and reporter for weekly and daily newspapers in Illinois. He is now a resident of Jacksonville, where he lives with his wife, father-in-law, two dogs and a cat. This article first appeared in The Source, a weekly newspaper in Jacksonville.
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