I love my job.
To our weekly reader who finds their eyes falling on this space regularly, I know ... you’ve heard this before. A week ago however, I challenged myself with the question of how much do I love this job? This community?
The question was prompted after listening to the latest the news had to offer by way of the government shutdown and all who were affected. Now granted, this wasn’t a first and likely won’t be a last. I think it was upon hearing the President had “ordered” all government employees to report to work (although they weren’t being paid), which prompted my thoughts.
A quick segue here … I still recall the 2013 shutdown and the anxiety it brought to our home.
The children’s father happens to be 20 years retired military. His support of his children comes directly from said retirement income. In 2013, I was relatively new to the “single mom” gig and while I recognized (still do) my good fortune to share children with a man who maintains his responsibility, that would be beyond his control.
Last week, with the first of the month just around the corner, my stomach dropped a bit again. Recognizing I might find myself in this space once again. In 2013 we dodged the bullet. As of this press date, it would seem we have again. The anxiety however six years later was a little less. Call it experience, better planning or maybe even acceptance that some things are beyond our control.
Mostly however I wondered if I would still show up to work. The short answer is quite simple: no.
Granted I’m not in a government job and if my employer chose not to pay us for our efforts there would be a line of attorneys eager to represent us. What I would have to lose, also isn’t equivalent to what government employees risk by not “showing up.”
Beyond that, how does that work exactly? I’m so confused by something which seems to make so much sense to the “unaffected,” it’s mind boggling to me. Mostly because my questions seem a bit so common sense, how in the world, that I can’t fathom the mass majority don’t feel/see the same thing.
So, your pay is on freeze because elected officials (who are still being paid) are at an impasse. Due to this impasse, they are holding your income hostage. Yet, you still must report to work, pay for the gas to get you there, the insurance to cover the vehicle that transports you and maintain a life above homelessness so you may continue to work – but there’s no money.
As I type this, my mind flashes back to childhood and that one word problem, that no matter how hard I stared, the answer never jumped out at me.
Certainly, I must have been being overly dramatic, I mean what kind of government would do this to their very own employees. Always looking for the other side, I reached out to the wife of a current federal employee.
As it turns out, her husband is in what she referred to as an “essential” job. As an “essential” employee finding a side job during the shutdown was easier said than done, as it required approval from his current employer, the one not paying him.
She works as well and suddenly found herself in a somewhat part-time job of phone calls and waiting on hold to let people know payments aren’t coming.
The worst part of all of this, was being witness to the shame she felt as she shared how hard it had been for her and her husband to accept the help from those who love and care for her family. The shame, by way of knowing what we “should” have set aside in the bank versus the reality of what is actually there.
Funny, how right fighters are always able to tell you how you could have made it better when you’re in the thick of the problem, right?
As I watched my friend wipe tears as she spoke I wondered if those elected officials had any idea or even cared about families like hers. Better yet, do we as Americans completely grasp the big picture of what this means for our government employee neighbors.
Oh sure, back pay will be given to those affected by the shutdown and yes, it’s currently been lifted. But let me break it down using my friend (a local) as an example.
When pay was cut off, suddenly she had to reassess their current spending and way of doing business. Shop local, we say, not so fast when you’re on a restricted income. Time to find the deals and either have what you need delivered free of charge or make a list and travel to the larger town where choices are greater and costs are lower.
Following me? I know, it’s like another kooky word problem, but this affects all of us – not just the “spoiled” government worker, as I saw one person state on Social Media. Before we get busy, calling names, lacking empathy and putting on our judgement cap, I wonder – would you show up in the same mind set as the day before, if you didn’t know when your next check was coming? Guaranteed or not, how would you provide until that time came?
My friend now fears when it will happen again. Convinced it’s not far off and yes, now planning accordingly. Perhaps you have a way different perspective, if so – I want to know. Before you pick up the phone, though, please review your own experience. No disrespect, but I don’t need to hear from the “how it should be,” or “it’s not that bad,” unless of course you have personally walked this path. Until then, my hope is we come out this on the other side both better for it and united once again.
God Bless America.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.