Ten years ago at this time I was unemployed.
My situation was my choice. Seven years earlier I had made what I thought was an excellent career move. I loved that job but for the first time in my career my boss and I didn’t get along and that’s a polite description of my dilemma.
Two job changes later I was in an even deeper no-win situation and after weeks of prayer and contemplation I resigned. I was not surprised when I learned my successor resigned two weeks after I left.
Jobless at age 59; not good. Since it was my choice to leave, there were no unemployment checks. There were, however, some other unexpected unemployment benefits.
For the better part of a decade I had wanted to get into some type of non-profit Christian or humanitarian employment. For the most part I had been blessed with good jobs over the years and thought I should devote the last years of my career to a job that helped others. No training or experience, however, meant no job offers.
Nearly four years before my unemployment situation I was offered a job as a fundraiser for a highly respected Christian organization. That was when I came face-to-face with an economic reality: the non-profit industry generally doesn’t pay well.
The salary I was offered was 40 percent less than I was already earning and fewer fringe benefits. The friend who made the offer encouraged me to trust God to help me survive on a smaller paycheck. I didn’t have that much faith and those golden handcuffs are real.
Now I was unemployed with no salary and no benefits. I had several job interviews that summer but at my age job offers were few and not too desirable. I chose to be choosy and turned down the few offers that were made.
Finally, in the third month of my predicament, one of the “prospecting” letters I had written generated a response. The Salvation Army in Des Moines was looking for a development and communications director and the organization’s local administrator wanted to visit with me.
During the lengthy interview I learned that The Salvation Army had been searching for this person since April. I had resigned from my previous job in May. My background matched their need.
The first benefit of my unemployment quickly became obvious. As I drove home from the interview I began to see God’s hand in all of this. I teared up as I remembered the many times over the past decade I had asked God to give me an opportunity to do something more directly for Him in the latter years of my career. Maybe this was it!
The interview went well but The Salvation Army does extensive (and time-consuming) background checks on its prospective employees. I began to wonder which stupid move from my youth was on public record. Unemployment benefit number two: my puny patience was tested… and I passed.
Four weeks after the interview I was offered the job. The salary was exactly what I had been offered four years earlier. Remember? That was the offer I turned down because I felt we couldn’t live on that amount. After four months of unemployment it was acceptable.
Unemployment benefit number three: I learned to trust God to provide.
Someone told me you can always tell a Huisman but you can’t tell him much. I could have avoided a lot of stress and distress if I had trusted God to help us get by on less income four years earlier. As a result of that lack of trust, I had to flounder through deeper, muddier waters for four years until I couldn’t do it anymore.
Unemployment benefit number four: I finally realized that one’s career should be more about fulfillment and less about money. Headaches aside, in earlier years I enjoyed my work. However, the satisfaction I attained from seeing hungry people fed and families in economic peril being assisted was greater than the satisfaction derived from any bonuses (which I did appreciate) I had earned in previous employment.
There were no unemployment checks ten years ago, but there were several unemployment benefits.