Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On the Road to Responsibility, a Job and Dignity

During my channel surfing yesterday, I happened to catch a news clip covering the acceptance speech of a gubernatorial primary winner. His speech was largely about envisioning a New York that he can restore to past prominence. Naturally, he spoke to the woes of unemployment and helping those without jobs return to the workforce. In his speech, he said, “I see a New York where people who are down on their luck can get back on the road to responsibility, a job, and dignity.”

It saddens me to hear a potential leader of a powerful and progressive state suggest that the unemployed do not have a sense of responsibility or dignity because they don’t have a job. I understand his message was meant to inspire – to show he has some magical fix for a major problem. However, his judgments about dignity and responsibility paint a broad stroke that our self-respect is tied to our business cards.   

As I’ve written before, as an unemployed person, I have struggled with issues of self-worth and the fact that identities are linked to a job. However, during my time on unemployment, I have changed my perspective on life. My priorities have shifted.

  • I am not my job.
  • My sense of dignity is linked to my actions, not my employment.
  • I gain my sense of responsibility from raising my son to be a good person.
  • I strive to create a meaningful life for myself and my family.

During my unemployment I have tried to live an intentional life. I have tried to find the light during the darkest hours. I have attempted to provide optimism for those struggling and I have helped mobilize a community to aid those in need. We received such a tremendous response to our diaper drive that we are currently planning a second, much larger and impactful event. These are the things that help instill pride, a sense of community, and a responsibility to something greater. It’s what I do with my time that defines me.

When I return to work, my job will not consume my identity. My self-worth will be derived from so much more. My hope is to have a meaningful job that is in line with my core values of love and family. Jobs will come and go…but my dignity will not vanish and reappear with each passing position.

I’ve learned a lot about pride, responsibility, and my life’s purpose while unemployed. I’m a changed man with different priorities. I’m thinking of inviting the above-mentioned politician to my next philanthropic event. If he doesn’t win the election, he might find himself struggling with a crisis of identity and loss of dignity.


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