For the person who has nothing, the gift of respite
While Carolyn is away, readers give their advice.
On what to say to someone struggling with unemployment:
Hey, as far as I’m concerned, the only thing one doesn’t want to say to a person in distress is what someone said to me: “What I try and do is be open to all that life brings, whatever comes.”
OK, I thought. When I get out of this mess I’ll head south and drive off the road into the desert and run out of gas. I won’t bring water. Then I’ll shoot out my tires. Just think of all I’ll get to experience then!
The only thing worse than trying to fix someone with words is not feeling some small piece of what they’re feeling.
— Anonymous (I guess)
From someone who is living the unemployment nightmare, my suggestion is to give the gift of respite — even for a few minutes, or a couple of hours.
Unemployed people cut out a boatload of luxuries to make ends meet. If they are married and/or have children, give them tickets for a movie, water park, zoo, restaurant gift certificate, etc. Something they can share with their families to have fun. If they are single, take them to a sports game, restaurant, shave and a haircut, etc.
If someone wants to talk, just listen. Don’t judge, answer back with suggestions or cut him off. Having someone who can listen is truly a rare gift.
Show them that your love for them is totally outside of their employment problem. My guess is they will remember it forever.
On fears of raising entitled children:
Surely the parents (who wrote to you about this) (http://wapo.st/Z3N4ve) confuse cause and effect. Is their success not due to their educational achievements rather than the source of their tuition? I bet their parents didn’t do their homework for them and try to get their teachers to give them unearned good grades so they could go to top universities. I bet their parents encouraged and supported and, yes, required that they do their very best in school from day one. I bet they learned values and behaviors that have nothing to do with money.
Moreover, these parents could think of the rewards of their own success as a means to greatly enrich the lives of their children. Take them to plays and concerts, musicals and operas, dance programs and ballets. Go to museums. Go abroad when they are old enough to explore their national origins and different cultures. Take a family trip on a small ship with naturalists and historians who will take them snorkeling and kayaking and hiking and teach them about the places they visit. Use spring vacation to drive around Civil War battlefields. Go to Yellowstone and stay at a dude ranch. Float down the Grand Canyon. By the time they are in college, the last thing they will want to do on spring break is show how rich their parents are by getting drunk in Cabo San Lucas!
Their wealth and success are not curses to be overcome. They are tools to give their kids the broadest exposure possible to the best, and worst, of the world — to get a truly broad education.