My mother called yesterday. Your stepfather’s job got cut, she said. Then she let out a long breath, as if she’d been holding it for the whole three months that they’ve been waiting for the cutbacks to be announced. It’ll be okay, she said. He got a good severance package and was paid for his vacation. He’ll keep his pension. He’s one of the lucky ones.
It’s the third time she’s made that phone call in the last five years. The first time was for herself; the second time was for my aunt. I also got the call twice from my in-laws. In the past five years, five of the most important adults in my life, all in their 50s, have lost their jobs. This, I believe, is something other than luck. It’s a conspiracy.
I’m not a fatalist, or an ageist. I read “Generation Debt,” I just found it remarkably shortsighted and charmingly naïve. The fact is, I’ve had it easier than my parents. At 28, I have a house, a car, a job, and an education, all things I achieved at a younger age than my parents did. I also have debt, perhaps more than they did at my age, but there are raises aplenty on my horizon.
I believe it is my parent’s generation, not mine, who has it tough. They are caught between caring for their children and for their parents. At a time when demands on their finances are at a premium, they live in a world that values cheap, young labor over experience and profit margins over loyalty to employees.
I believe that they deserve to be paid more than a fraction of their CEO’s salary. I believe they deserve more respect than to be tossed out with a meager six months’ pay in return for more than twenty years of service.
There are lots of people out there like me who don’t realize how good they have it. There are many like my mother, too, who believe with all their heart that everything will be okay, that things will get better, that life, however it comes to you, is ultimately blessed. That unfailing faith tells me that I still have a lot to learn.
And yet I do believe that they are the lucky ones, but not because of their severance packages. My stepfather is lucky because, at 19, he went to Vietnam, and came back alive. My mother is lucky, too, because she survived abuse as a child and refused to pass it on to another generation.
Most of all, I believe that they are not alone. There are people just like them around the world who deserve more than they have been given, but they accept what they have, they make the best of it, and they never give up. And because of that, they should know that even if the powers that be are blind to their value, I know what they are: irreplaceable, priceless, loved.
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