We were seated together at a holiday dinner party in a fancy downtown hotel. She looked beautiful in her floor-length gown of Christmas red. As we dined on filet mignon and lobster macaroni cakes, we chatted about our mutual plans for Christmas. She has two children, aged six and four and she proudly said that Santa Claus was coming to town for her children in a big way this year.
Then, in the most matter of fact tone, she said she was glad she had taken care of Santa early because she had lost her job the week before. “Lost your job?” I exclaimed. “Yes,” she replied. “I was a buyer for A.J. Wright and I got my notice Friday.”
I had heard the bad economic news on television. TJX Companies, the discount retailers, announced that they was closing all 162 of the A. J. Wright stores, putting 44-hundred employees on the street.
The CEO of the TJX Companies, Carol Meyrowitz, issued a written statement saying, “…I am deeply grateful for those Associates affected by this action for their hard work and dedication and know this is a difficult time for them.”
Why do companies always seem to wait until the Christmas holidays to announce layoffs and cutbacks? “Have yourself an un-merry little Christmas.”
As the unemployment rate has continued to rise, now standing at 9.8 percent, I have been frustrated by the economy’s devastatingly slow recovery and its tragic impact on American workers. But I didn’t know anyone directly affected. My dinner companion finally put a human face on the problem. My heart went out to her.
“What are you going to do?” I asked this college-educated woman, who appeared to be in her late thirties. She had worked for A. J. Wright for many years.
In what seemed forced good humor, she said she was going to enjoy the holidays (How?) and then re-group in January and figure out what she’s going to do with the rest of her life.
I put myself in her shoes. No job. Almost 40 years old, two small children in private school, a husband who is working, but a mortgage, plenty of household bills, and cars that need to keep running. Not a happy prospect for 2011.
There are so many millions of Americans suffering the plight of my new friend, but many in far worse shape than she.
As I enjoy Christmastime with my family and friends, I will have a special prayer this year. It will be for those who are depressed and fearful of the future because they are out of work. Perhaps, you, too, will remember them in your prayers. God bless them, every one.