A Thread of Decency

By | Jan 7, 2014

Notice of Termination of EmploymentAn actual pink slip seems to be obsolete these days, even though the act of termination is alive and well in this economy. Instead of that dreaded pink paper, the ending of an employee’s tenure is more like what George Clooney’s character does in Up in the Air, sitting with a perfect disposition across the table from his victim in a private, glassed-in office, explaining why his or her job is now obsolete.

Jill’s employment didn’t end in pink, but it was certainly the beginning of a sad slip out of middle class living and onto the streets. She was a telephone customer service representative when a George Clooney-like supervisor sat her down and explained that her job was being outsourced to India.

There were three weeks left in the month, so she thought that would be enough time to find work. Her rent was $1,000 per month for her tiny apartment, she had to pay for car insurance, utilities, her cell phone, gas, food, and other daily living expenses. Her total monthly budget was $1,500.

She figured that she needed to make $9.50 per hour to support her budget. That amount did not seem unreasonable, so she started sending resumes to potential companies.

Two weeks later, after several interviews, no one was offering her a job. Not even at such a low hourly rate. With a week left until the end of the month, she asked her landlord if she could delay her rent by two weeks, and pay interest on it. She had been a responsible renter in the past, so he agreed.

Three weeks later, the same sad story — resume submissions, interviews, and rejection emails.

Her landlord was not as flexible this time.

Jill had no family in the area, so she asked several friends if she could sleep on their couches for a month. One friend gave her a week of couch time. Those seven days went by quickly, and still no job.

To save face, she told her friend that she had found another place to live and thanked her profusely. That “other place to live” was her beat-up, old Toyota Corolla. She parked it on a street in a safe neighborhood of Los Angeles. It was dark at night, with not a lot of people around.

After a week of not being able to shower, eating at a soup kitchen, and sleeping in a car, Jill decided she was not going to find a job smelling like a fisherman who had been out at sea for weeks. Her hair was matted with sweat and dirt, her skin was dry and peeling, and her dignity was torn to pieces. She was a mess.

So she showed up at the local homeless shelter with her suitcase, and asked for a shower and a bed.

Her only thought while standing in line at the shelter with other people who clearly looked homeless, was this: It is amazing what the loss of a job can do to you. That one, basic job was the thread that kept her life together.

Months later, with the help of the homeless agency, Sarah found a job as a receptionist and saved enough money to move into a studio apartment.

But the memory of that broken thread still haunts her.


  1. Posted Jan 13, 2014 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Cheers to Jill! I know that it's terrifying when you find yourself on the street. Many people who you might find hanging out around the homeless shelter downtown have different stories. Some are prostitutes, some are drug dealers, but all are in dire straits.

    When a person has lost everything and are forced out of their home, (most at a young age, and others with a criminal record and little hope) people learn to survive. They forget about manners and personal dignity, they forget about what it felt like to be a "good person" and worthy of common decency. This disease plagues millions in the US today; it is called hopelessness and despair.

    Now so many people who have lived relatively normal lives, are finding their way to the shelters; they are not equipped to survive in the pit of despair. The disease of hopelessness soon becomes Narcissistic Personality Disorder; a person with NPD has no conscience; they come to hate themselves and everyone, and everything around them. They want others to feel the pain they suffer.

    My thanks to all who support the homelessness crusades and help people like Jill find their way back to safety and dignity.

    Beautiful story, Joel John Roberts

  2. Granny Squares of Love
    Posted Jan 27, 2014 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    So happy that Jill found her way out of the pit of despair!