The following piece comes from Lee Weal who writes at Lee is unemployed and knows firsthand the frustration, disappointment and the life-altering sting of long-term unemployment. From her blog:

I’m a “99er” and for those who don’t know what that means, it’s someone who has exhausted all unemployment benefit extensions and is unable to find work. People over 50 have historically been discriminated against for employment and it’s even worse now than it’s ever been. In the meantime, people still have to live. Me, I had to give away my beloved cats and I’m now living on my 81-year-old mother’s couch.

Lee was impressed by efforts of a one-time, long-term unemployed Facebook “friend,” Pam Sexton, who originated a campaign for another 99er, Alexandra Jarrin, who was nearly homeless and in desperate need of financial assistance. You can read more about Alexandra’s story at: Alexandra Jarrin who organized 99er’s “Letters to Bernie” is nearly homeless and Update: 99er Alexandra Jarrin is Thankful, Yet Fearful and Losing Hope.  

Pam Sexton did what most people want to do, but often are unable to do, and that is to take immediate action when the situation demands. What follows are Lee Weal’s impressions of Pam Sexton’s efforts for Alexandra Jarrin.

Be the Change…Part ll

To the Pam Sextons of the World: this is a fan letter. No, this is a love letter.

I never met Pam Sexton. Never talked to her on the phone, never emailed her. Wouldn’t know her if I fell over her in the middle of the night. I’ve read her posts on Facebook and responded to many as she has responded to mine. Pam Sexton went above and beyond to help a 99er to get what she needed most to survive: money.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because I’m also a 99er; one of the long term unemployed who has exhausted unemployment benefits. It’s been an interesting journey so far. (I’m using the word “interesting” as a euphemism…. but I’ll get back to that at another time.)

It’s not enough to say you care; the caring is in the doing. The mainstream media is finally catching up to something that many of us have known for years: that we are in deep, deep trouble. That the economy is tanking because of the assault on the middle class who are losing ground every single day. Many have become the new poor. I mean, really poor. I mean lost their homes-credit rating tanked-living in a shelter-poor. And a lot of people who know people like this feel badly about it and say things like, “So sorry to hear of your troubles. I’ll pray for you,” as they go on about their business. That’s wonderful… and I’m convinced that many of them actually mean it. But you can’t pay rent with prayers. The utility company will not accept good intentions as payment.

Others, like Pam Sexton, roll up their sleeves and say, “There must be something I can do. What can I DO?” She went out of her way, above and beyond, to bring attention to the plight of another 99er who was about to become homeless. As a result, “strangers” opened their hearts, minds, and wallets and donated enough money to keep this woman afloat for just a little while longer. ‘Cause that’s all it takes for many of us. That’s what unemployment benefits did for us. They didn’t make anyone rich. They didn’t allow us to take trips or enjoy a great life. They allowed us to stay afloat for just a little while longer while we searched every ad, talked to anyone with a pulse, sent out resumes on a daily basis, and searched under every rock for a job. Not “The” job, not the job of our dreams, just a way to pay our bills, keep our homes, and maintain our dignity. And now for many of us, that lifeline has been taken away.

A friend of mine recently sent me some information about an opportunity that is not quite right for me, but I was unbelievably touched by this generosity of spirit. He didn’t just say, “So sorry….” He attempted to help me find a path to get the one single thing I need: a job which would pay me money to keep me from sinking further into the abyss. The caring is in the doing. It’s in calling/emailing/Facebooking people who have no job, no money, and no resources and saying, “How are you? What can I do?” It’s sharing some of what you have if you can afford to share without thinking about what’s in it for you. It’s about listening and letting people vent when they need to. It’s about being a “mensch”. It’s about not walking away and thinking, “Whew, glad it’s her and not me.” It’s about putting away judgment and blame and self-righteousness and most of all selfishness and actually, physically, emotionally, tangibly reaching out in any way that you can. ANY way that you can.

Mind you, I’m not discounting or denigrating the power of prayer and how meaningful it is to many people. If that’s all you’ve got to give, that’s wonderful. It’s lovely. And I’m not suggesting that anyone who is truly struggling give money to others when they are doing their best to survive as well. But if you have more to share with someone in need, you should. You could give more because… why not?

You could give more just because it might save someone from living in the street and because it would make you feel good. And if you believe in heaven, it would help pay for your ticket.

Thanks to Lee Weal for allowing The Layoff List to post her piece.

While Pam Sexton was the initial force behind the effort to help Alexandra Jarrin, she didn’t act alone; there were many contributors to Alexandra’s cause, including those who gave money, those who spread the word on Twitter and Facebook, as well as those who offered advice and encouragement. A few 99ers contributed $1 to help out and it all added up to a successful campaign to keep Alexandra from being homeless…. at least for now.

It will take millions of similarly extraordinary efforts on a large scale to end the tragedy that is long-term unemployment. It will demand the participation of  individuals, religious organizations, non-profits, and the private and public sectors. And the time for action is now.

Actions do speak louder than words, but actions have to be recognized by words to have a lasting effect; Lee Weal’s words did that exceptionally well.


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