35: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

35: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

  
The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Sometimes that light at the end of the tunnel is a train.
~Charles Barkley

It came out of nowhere.

Barreling down the tracks with a will of its own, the unemployment train burst upon us with no warning.

“Honey, I just heard that Bill’s shutting down the company on Friday.”

It was Wednesday, July 5th. My husband and I had returned from a two-week vacation to Alaska on July 3rd. We’d timed the trip so we’d have the Fourth of July as a free day to recuperate from the time change and travel before he went to work.

This, however, had not been in our plans.

My heart dropped so far and so fast, it was a wonder I had enough blood flowing through my veins to hold me up. Joe was fifty-nine. Not a good age to lose a job, as he was ineligible for Medicare or Social Security. Since he’d suffered a minor stroke a few months before losing his job, we couldn’t take a chance and go without health insurance.

I swallowed hard and attempted to provide the reassurance I knew my husband desperately needed to hear. “It will be all right. We have savings.”

“Right.”

Joe’s effort to remain calm brought a quick smile as I hung up the phone. My husband’s sense of humor and calm, steady, get-it-done attitude were among the many reasons I loved him. With thirty-four years of marriage under our belts, we complement each other. He sees most glasses half full. I see them half empty. That combination leaves us based in reality but willing to take chances—which makes for a healthy and always interesting partnership.

As the months of unemployment went by and our money dwindled, we each contributed in our own way.

I clipped coupons, followed sales, and learned all about cost-cutting. I found a local college that offered dental cleanings for a nominal fee, as a way to teach students. I also found other schools that offered everything from low-cost bakery items to haircuts. The library became our main source of entertainment, with books, DVDs, and a host of newspapers and other material related to job offerings. Joe became “Monsieur Joseph” and colored my hair.

To keep busy, we began housecleaning—sorting items we no longer needed into a pile and boxing them for a future yard sale. To stay active, we took walks. We played cards and games at night for fun. During nice weather, we often sat outside around dusk to listen to the birds. We even got up in the middle of the night to watch a meteor shower—something we couldn’t have done when Joe was working.

Despite these measures, as our savings dwindled I grew more afraid. The cost for our health care was close to a thousand dollars a month. Joe was a disabled veteran with a bad back, so jobs requiring a lot of lifting or standing for long periods of time were out. And, as Joe worked in a dying industry (printing), jobs were scarce. When he did get an interview for an entry-level job, he was turned aside because hiring someone with his experience made most executives uncomfortable.

Never one to give up, Joe filled out any and all applications he could find.

We both depended on our faith in God to sustain us, but sometimes we wondered why he’d allowed this particular express train to hound us!

Nine months later, we received a call from the wife of a former minister we hadn’t seen in years.

“I have an application on my desk. Is your husband looking for a job by any chance?”

As much as those words sounded like music to my ears, I knew the large home improvement store where she worked would turn down Joe with his medical problems.

“Yes, he is.”

For a brief second, I thought about “forgetting” to mention his health situation, but I couldn’t. We’d both been raised to stand behind our word and be honest.

“You do know he has a ten percent disability from the service and can’t lift a lot,” I said.

“That’s okay. I know his character and his work ethic. Tell him to come in and take the pre-employment tests. If he passes, I think we have the perfect job for him.”

Joe got the job (which didn’t require as much standing and lifting) and is working there still.

Looking back now, the unemployment train we were sure would do us in actually taught us more than we could have imagined.

That speeding bullet just may have saved us.

My husband earns far less money now, but he has a ten-minute commute in light traffic. He earns far less money, but his stress level isn’t as great, and we don’t take our time or money for granted as much now.

The first February Joe was out of work, he painted me a Valentine’s Day card and added a heartfelt sentiment. He didn’t have the money to buy a traditional store greeting card, but love doesn’t need expensive offerings.

No card has ever meant more to me.

This downward turn made us remember that the best things in life really are free.

It’s been said the light at the end of the tunnel may be a train coming for you.

I agree.

But I think you have two choices when the unemployment train comes at you—you can allow it to run over you or you can grab hold and decide you are going to make the best of the ride and see where that metal monster takes you.

~Michele H. Lacina

More stories from our partners