It is no secret that our family endured almost a year of unemployment and a mountain of credit card debt that came along with it. I often look back on that time in our lives and wonder how we ever did it. How did we make that situation work? How did our marriage survive it? How did we manage to keep our home and our car?
There are so many families right now that are truly suffering… in much worse ways than we have ever had to endure. This time of difficulty is supposed to turn around in our economy and in many ways it has for many. I know though that many others are still enduring hardship and struggling to overcome these difficulties.
With that being said, I wanted to share with you some ways you can make a difference in the life of someone who is undergoing financial struggle and unemployment. You can make an incredible difference in the life of someone who is struggling and, in most cases, it won’t even cost you a dime!
Lend an Ear- The most important thing you can do for someone who is having a hard time financially is to just sit and let them talk. Let them share with you the anger that they have over their situation, let them cry tears of grief over the struggles they are enduring, and celebrate with them when those times turn around.
Let them talk about what they feel like talking about and try not to push them to tell more than they feel comfortable with. It is a very brave thing to do to open up and tell someone that you are struggling and it takes time and trust for them to want to share this private information with you.
Offer To Babysit- The #1 cause for divorce is money problems. When a spouse is unemployed, particularly the male in the family, it is such a difficult time in a marriage because so much of one’s pride and self-esteem comes from being able to contribute financially to the family.
The best thing you can do to keep that marriage growing strong is offer to support them by babysitting for them. Give the family the time they need to have a date night or just to have time to quietly do some job searching.
If you have the finances to offer a gift card for a night out, that is a wonderful and thoughtful touch. Think of fun budget-friendly things they could do like going bowling, or a gift card to Barnes & Noble for books or coffee, or a gift certificate to the movie theater.
Better yet, supply a gift that they could use for several nights in like a new board game, an electronic game, a Netflix membership, or ingredients for a fun meal that they could make at home. These are simple gifts that could supply many nights of fun for them during a difficult patch in their marriage.
Meals on Wheels- One of my favorite things to do for people during these times is to just drop off a dinner to them or to bring a meal when I come over to spend time with them. Try to make a big batch of food that could get them through one or two nights when money is tight.
If you lack the cooking gene, head over to the supermarket and pick up a take-and-bake pizza, popcorn, and some break-and-bake cookies. These are likely fun food that have been removed from the grocery budget and will be just as much appreciated as a home cooked meal.
Hire the Unemployed- Check around at your own place of unemployment, contact your friends through social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, and tap into as many people in your network as you can to find a job for your loved one. Do your part to get their resume out there!
If you aren’t able to find them a job, consider hiring them for some odds and ends jobs around your house. When one of our family members lost their job, we offered to hire him to remove wallpaper and paint our bathroom. It was a job in our house that we were not looking forward to doing and he was looking for a way to make some extra money. We both felt really good about the project and, in the end, it was the money that helped put the Christmas gifts under their tree. In my opinion, that is a total win-win situation!
Be an Anonymous Giver- Pride gets in the way of sometimes getting the help that someone might need. No one wants to say, “I don’t have money for groceries this month. Can you give me some?”
I have some very prideful people in my life who would never tell me when they were struggling. I have learned that anonymous gifts are sometimes the best kinds of gifts to give in these situations. Mail them a gift card or leave pantry ingredients on their doorstep.
Little Things are Sometimes the Best Things- There are so many little ways that you can help those that are struggling that can add up in big ways. Clean out your pantry and bring over the extra food to someone who is struggling, pick up a movie for them, stock them up on diapers for the baby, buy them detergent or paper products that can typically drain the grocery budget, offer to babysit while they run resumes, pass on your old magazines or books for a sweet little pick-me-up, weed through your children’s clothes and share those hand-me-downs, send them a card that you are thinking of them, pray for them daily, and cheer them up when you talk on the phone.
Even though I don’t like to focus on the negative, here is a little advice on things not to do-
- Don’t harass them every day to ask if they have found a job yet. Know that you are likely going to be one of the first people that would be contacted and let them talk about their successes when they occur.
- Don’t criticize their unemployed spouse. As I have said before, marriage is hard when a spouse is unemployed and it is important that you do your best not to contribute to the negativity. Allow them to vent, but don’t fuel the fire.
- Do your best not to chastise them if they are angry or hurt over what is happening in their lives. Many well-meaning people try to correct anger instead of letting them work through it. Simply saying, “I know this must be tough!” will go a lot further in these situations then correcting their feelings.
As someone who has been on both sides of the fence, you will never know what it will mean to that person to be a steady rock for them to lean on. Try to think beyond yourself and do one nice thing for someone who is unemployed today. It will mean more than you will ever know!
Are you struggling with unemployment or have you struggled with it in the past? What is one thing you could recommend that others can do to help? What is the best thing someone has done for you or someone you love?