Offering Holiday Support to Unemployed Loved Ones

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– The following is a guest post from Robbie –

Two years ago was the worst Christmas of my life.

There are few things more humbling than the realization that your kids likely wouldn’t have much, if anything, under the tree from you. Or that the traditions of holidays past went the way of the paycheck.

My husband, a former retail manager, was one of the first victims of the Great Recession, as stores started to pare down their staffs. And going from a comfortable, though not lavish, living to one where you struggle to pay the bills or feed the kids is a truly humbling experience.

To this day, I’ll always be grateful to the silent friends who surprised me with bags of gifts for my kids. To the pantry who helped feed my family. And to the department at work who, a dollar bill at a time, surprised us with help with household expenses. Those expressions of love made it, in fact, one of the most memorable Christmases in memory.

Good Neighbors

We’re all called in life to help our neighbors. And sometimes those neighbors are just that. Neighbors. Friends. Family.

Asking for help is one of the most difficult things we can do. I was reminded early on that you have to learn to receive in order to truly give. And for many of us, we have loved ones who are just in that need this holiday season.

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There are many ways to help meet a need in your loved one’s life. We have a need for safety and security. We have a need to have peace of mind. And we have a need, sometimes, to get away from our problems.

Some ideas to consider this season:

  • Help with ancillaries for a job search. Consider a month’s worth of Internet access to complete their applications, printer paper or ink cartridges, or a gas card for job interviews
  • Fulfill a family need. Put together a basket of household supplies or treats for school lunches, grocery cards, clothing for the kids or payment toward a utility.
  • A chance to pretend that life is “normal” again. Instead of toys, perhaps you could pay for a child’s extracurricular activity, get movie rental coupons or theatre passes, or a sitter so the parents can have some couple time, a precious commodity in normal circumstances.
  • The gift of time. So often, our activities in life circle around things that cost money, and a job loss may mean a loss of those activities – and, sadly, relationships. An offer to join you for a relaxing evening at your home can often do so much.

If your loved one is struggling, seek out ways you can help. Admittedly, it’s hard asking that tough question in a society that shrugs off talking finances. But ask anyway.

You may think it’s just a few dollars, but to them, it’s a sign you’re not alone.

— Robbie, a Midwest mother of two, blogs regularly at Going Green Mama and the Green Phone Booth.

What are other ways we can help those in need?

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  1. These are wonderful suggestions. I know unemployed people who have been thrilled to find an anonymous gift card or treat left at the door, too.

  2. A few months ago, I quit my job to take care of my father. This brought our just enough salary to bare bones. We are struggling this Christmas, as are many families. Many years ago, we decided to only give homemade gifts. This was after seeing many of our purchases regifted, and also wanting to teach our daughter that Christmas should come from the heart, not the store.

    This year we are giving “consumable” gifts. These are things that can be used up or eaten, enjoyed, and not clutter up a home. For example, my father has requested a homemade coconut cake. The Aunts and Uncles are receiving melted candles poured into mugs hot glued to a saucer. I purchased all these items at our neighborhood 99 cents store. We are also making tree ornaments. I will purchase a cotton batting sheet from dollar tree, cut out circles, and glue on small snowflake scatters. Add a string and were good to go.

    When you have little money, smaller things mean more. I would love a frozen dinner, a gift card for groceries or gas when we have a tight week, or even a night of babysitting so my husband and I can have a quiet dinner at home. Even better, if you want to give an actual gift, along with your gift of service, add a spa kit complete with salts, a good book, a candle, or even an eye pad. All can be purchased for $1 or less.

    Another idea is to give make-up or perfume. When the budget is tight, these items may not make the list. If you don’t know what to get, purchase a gift card to her favorite store. Just don’t be offended if the card goes for groceries instead of its intended use. I have actually returned items to buy food.

  3. This is a post that really hits home. My husband was laid off 3 times in the last two years (darn construction) and it’s been incredibly difficult to make ends meet.

    These are wonderful suggestions…I’m sure any family would be happy to be a recipient.

  4. Ask if the car needs repair. Small things can become costly if not maintained properly. Offer car maintenance that you do yourself or pay for. even if its an oil change, its appreciated. Think about house repairs as well. Is a step loose or does the bathroom sink drip? These minor things weigh heavy when you don’t have the money to fix them.

    What about the family pet? A bag of food along with some treats will put a smile on fidos face.

    Keep in mind that some are proud and do not want to receive help, although they need it. Some are in denial and will not let you help them. You don’t grow up thinking you will struggle to make ends meet. Many people feel as if they have failed if they find themselves in a position of more month than money. Be patient. Be kind. And don’t patrionize. This a very sensitive subject. if possible, help without helping. Take the kids out for pizza and bring back “leftovers.” Or “regift” a gift card to a store that you “don’t like but don’t want to see it wasted.” Make it sound as if he\she is doing you a favor by taking it off of your hands. Or let them promise to pay it back, but never expect it or hold it over their head.

  5. Excellent ideas — thank you. Job loss is such a tough thing — we should all do what we can to help others. Sometimes it’s the smallest thing that can mean so much.

  6. Such a great reminder! Especially as we approach Thanksgiving and are thinking about all of our own blessings…

  7. Wow Robbie. Thank you.

    This post awakened something in me and I have not been able to stop thinking about the Christmas of blessings that your friends, family and coworkers gave you.

    Jessica, thank you for having Robbie guest post.

    I linked up to this post and I want to make sure that what I did was Kosher and within your terms of use Jessica. Please let me know if I should remove the link.

    Thank you for the gentle reminder to look towards unconventional giving within our community.

  8. Thank you for the great suggestions. As someone who is currently undergoing just such an experience I can honestly say that any one of these would brighten our week.

    I’ve actually had one friend contact me and insist that I name something I need so she can help out. I appreciate her caring even more than any material item she might bring.

  9. These ideas are wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing. I think many of us know at least one (if not more!) families in a similar situation.

  10. I could have written this post.

    In July of 2008, my husband (and 3000 other people) lost their jobs when the parent company decided to scale back. Just 4 months before this, we had moved 600 miles away from our home state. And I was 6 weeks from delivering baby #2. It was an incredibly stressful time. Our new church graciously helped us with medical bills related to the baby’s birth (we had to take Cobra, which was outrageously expensive), and friends, family and mysterious strangers sent us money or gift cards to help us through that hard 6 months. It was right before Christmas that my husband got a new job, and we were so thankful, but the holidays that year (Thanksgiving through New Years) were so tight and just very hard. It really stretched me, both in my faith and learning to trust God, and also my pride, in learning to accept help freely.

    God got us through it, and all praise goes to Him.