Along with the disadvantages inherent in poverty, there are certain advantages of being unemployed. Chief among these is the fact that your time is your own. As you’re not selling your time and energy to an employer (or to “the man,” as some would style it), you can do pretty much anything you want to do. As long as it doesn’t cost money, that is.
Having plenty of time but no money certainly does make one stop and smell the roses. I get to play endless games of “Boo!” with my little grandniece. (Turns out her time is her own, too.) I get to bake cookies with my niece on a weekday afternoon just because I found this cool vegan recipe on a blog that I follow. And then I get to combine all these pleasures by sitting in the living room with my niece and grandniece, discussing theories of sociology with the former and sharing the freshly-baked cookies with the latter.
It’s a lot like being a kid again.
While I’m explaining the basics of regression analysis to my niece, I can’t help but feel that a part of me is regressing to an earlier time in my life. Little One hands me (Curious) George, her stuffed monkey, and I make a big show of hugging him as a means of demonstrating my worthiness as designated (zoo)keeper of her favorite plush primate.
I get to push her around WinCo in a grocery cart, pretending to be a racecar driver while singing “Alouette,” much to the amusement of some of my fellow shoppers.
My wife and I get to pick up our niece and her daughter early in the morning, driving the former to the local community college and entertaining the latter for the remainder of the day and into the evening.
We get to see entirely too many episodes of Sesame Street, read the same picture books over and over again and teach the finer points of dipping French fries into ketchup.
I get to sing songs from my childhood that I hadn’t thought of in half a century, amazed when all the lyrics come back to me as if it were yesterday.
Tomorrow, I think Little One and I will whip up a batch of guacamole. Those avocados are almost ripe now.
Uncle Guac has no clue what he is doing, but he’s having entirely too much fun doing it. Now that he has the time to do it, that is.
So, yes, writers such as Nicholas Eberstadt point out that public funds spent on social welfare entitlements (from unemployment benefits to SSDI to Medicare to Obamacare) have increased from one-third of all federal spending to two-thirds thereof in the past fifty years. Bemoaning the rise of the welfare state and what he sees as the “moral crisis” that is the death of the American Dream, Eberstadt refers to us as “a nation of takers.” Ignoring the suffering endured by those whom the tanking American economy has left behind, he insists that men in their prime have lost their will to work and are perfectly content to leech off the public fisc.
Well, I only have three unemployment checks left, Mr. Eberstadt, but I’m still here. And so is my wife, my mother-in-law, my niece and my nephew, none of us gainfully employed at this time.
And unless John Boehner and the Tea Party Republicans remove their heads from their respective asses soon, I won’t be “taking” a few weeks from now.
No matter what happens, though, I will still be giving. Of my time, my energies and my love. Because now I have the time to do so. In between sending out endless résumés and receiving no response.
Yes, indeed, there are a lot us these days: The silent nation of givers. We are still here, and we’re not going anywhere.
By the way, Mr. Eberstadt, there’s someone I’d like you to meet up here in Yuba County. She’ll be 18 months old on Friday.
Hope you can make it. And why don’t you bring Mr. Boehner along while you’re at it?