Working Together

"We shape our self
to fit this world

and by the world
are shaped again..."

Excerpt from "Working Together" © David Whyte
in The House of Belonging

Many Rivers Press

Friday, November 19, 2010

Out of Work? Get in the Bread Line....

I am sharing this trailer [below] from Time Goes By.  A blog and excellent resource for all things useful one might be interested in as they journey "'around the bend" into the the winter of their lives.  The blog tag line is actually, "What it's really like to get older" and I have found many times a sanctuary there in trying to get a grip on my process of aging.  The particular blogs post that I am responding to today deals with the flood of elders being laid off prematurely from the workplace.  I am not exactly an "elder", per se.  I have come to understand (mostly through the shared stories on this site) that I am quite a youngster at 57 compared to the many who have actually earned that title. Elders are, contrary to popular thought, contributing mightily to communities and businesses all across this nation.  Many are losing their jobs.

The trailer is from the site, Over 50 and Out of Work.  They explain:

"OVER 50 AND OUT OF WORK is an ongoing multimedia project that documents the stories and the impact of the Great Recession on jobless Americans, 50 and older...Our broader, long-term mission is to help people who are OVER 50 AND OUT OF WORK get back into the labor force by improving the cultural perception of older workers and by influencing public policy changes that will make it easier for them to find re-employment."

I have been watching the interviews posted at the site intermittently today.  I have to screw up my courage with each viewing because I realize the level of poo I am in in my own recent layoff.  I hear some of myself  within the voice of each person's story.  Not that I have any intention of finding myself in a situation like I experienced at my last placement - it seems that many enjoyed their work so much that they want to go right back into the same type of work - but the mountain of lost resources is clearly reflected in the voices of these very capable and intelligent folks who have dedicated their lives to working with integrity and skill.  The seriousness of the situation is related through the very real fears they live with daily in trying to keep their losses to a minimum while still trying to validate their worth.

I've been on a hiring committee or two in my time and I know how much unexpressed prejudice exists in the decision making process.  One wonders, "Why is this 65 year old person even looking for work? How can they possibly think they have anything to offer here?  Are they delusional?"  None of this is ever expressed or addressed, of course, but it is thought.  Is it true? Well, yes and no.

The delusion is not in the self worth of the applicant and their abilities but in the perceived worth by the those hiring (many of whom, I noticed are themselves in their 60s, by the way).  No one wants the elder worker.  A younger candidate would blanch at the hurdles an older applicant faces in an interview.  And face it they do, all the while struggling with feeling thrown out and not worthy of employment.   They stay the course, while constantly fighting to stop second guessing every financial choice they made over the last 30 years so they can keep their chin up long enough to keep trying to find enough money to survive.  I am thinking that the problem is actually seeded in an overall misunderstanding of the worth that elders give to a workplace.  You need only replace the word 65 year old person* from the quote above with the word "woman" or the word "colored" to realize the level of prejudice that is at work here.  Now imagine your world today without the diversity we have all come to enjoy with breaking the barriers of color and gender.  The value of the elder worker is the most overlooked and under appreciated resource America has.

The other part of this conversation that needs to be addressed by young and old alike is how do we live large with less.  Few people know how to do this better than the older population in this country with our experience in lean times and with what we have learned from our elders over time.  None of this important dialogue can be effectively discussed with out the value of the aged American being recognized and included.

Outrageous indignation aside, currently it is a shit storm out there folks!  What has happened to us that we do not understand the value of experience?  Do we think that experience equals a sacrifice of edginess or sex appeal?  Do we really want to put all of our American products and resources into superficial charm designed for immediate gratification?  Apparently so because that is exactly what is happening by not including the diversity of an older and more experienced voice into the conversations regarding leading, making policy and governing.  This is where elders are needed most and obviously appreciated least.  I am sad for those of us who have for a multitude of reasons been squeezed out of opportunities by circumstances only to have to face what is really nothing more than a really, really bad reaction to stereotypes.  What is more, I am sad for this country that we can't seem to understand that the way out of this recession is with the slow, steady hard work of the people who have walked the walk, have the actual experience and can grasp the depth and the vision simultaneously.

How old are you and are you brave enough to get older?  I mean had better be honest with your answer now or face the piper later...because it is ALL about, "there but for the Grace of God",  Just sayin'...

I hope you will take the time to watch the trailer here and go to the  Over 50 and Out of Work site and watch the individual interviews.

Over 50 and Out of Work Trailer from Over Fifty and Out of Work on Vimeo.

 * a trick I learned from Ronni Bennett from TGB in ferreting out intention within language.

1 comment:

marciamayo said...

Beautifully said, Cile. I'm thinking of you daily as you figure all of this out.