Wednesday, March 04, 2009

To Give or Live


As employers large and small seek methods of plugging the ever-widening holes in the hulls of their sinking vessels, and tossing things overboard to lighten the load, something troubling is happening--it is being used as an excuse. It's not just that company benefits are being eliminated or trimmed, though that is happening at an alarming rate, it's that obligations are being overlooked. We mustn't let the recession give us recessionitis.

I spoke to a corporate executive last week who explained a particularly vexing employee, who had badgered the department and had found protection from being fired in their Human Services rules was bundled into a bigger layoff and let go. What would have taken six weeks to several months to accomplish was taken care of in a single stroke. This happens to be one of those understandable usages of layoffs, and I could hear the relief over the employee finally being gone, but it suggests a crack in the veneer of truth. It wasn't entirely above board.

Another owner of a small company said he'd taken the opportunity to clean house of some workers who were never going to cut it, that the recession provided perfect cover to speed along what otherwise would have been costly and dragged out dismissals. There is efficiency in such layoffs--firings--and efficiency is what's needed to keep small and large businesses afloat. But if such practices become easier for having done them once, then there's a danger of falling into the excuses trap.

More troubling to me, as a board member of a worthy non-profit, is that businesses and individuals have stopped giving. As of the start of the new year money simply dried up. This makes for desperate times for our inner city youth literacy and athletics program--it may go under. And I have to wonder what's going on. Yes, money is tight for all of us, but this is no time to allow safety nets for the needy to go under. To the contrary, there are and will be even more needy--kids and adults alike--in the coming months and if ever there was a time to reach deep and give to charity, those who can afford to must.

If the recession becomes an excuse instead of a challenge then there is a double barreled effect: it hits our purses and our humanity; it degrades our bank accounts and our ethics. Times of hardship can unite and lift a society to new accomplishments, or turn it on itself--every man for himself; dog eat dog.

We must go forward, yes. Difficult decisions must be made, no doubt. People will lose jobs. Non-profits will fail. But hopefully we can retain our common humanity in the process.


  1. Great post, Ridley. One problem we need to overcome is pervasive fear. So many people I know have lost at least half sometimes all of the money they've worked a lifetime to accumulate. Some retirees I know are looking for jobs. Many believe this economic collapse will be worse than the Great Depression. We need a Roosevelt "Nothing to fear but fear itself" speech. And you're just the man for the job!

  2. Good post, Ridley. I see the same thing and worry about our future.

    It might also be an oportunity for many of to get involved and help with other gifts as opposed to money.

    I'm goning to talkabout Brad Meltzer and his efforts tomorrow.


  3. See now, this man know what time it is. He's not sitting around looking at web cams and doing Lord knows what.

    He talking the talk and walking the walk.

    You dumbasses take heed to this man's words. You gots to look at the past to see the future. It all right there if you open your eyes.

    Be nice. Don't be a dumbass. Do the right thing.

  4. "Times of hardship can unite and lift a society to new accomplishments......"


    Those who do the right thing do so because it's the right thing.....that is not contigent on the economy.

    There are all kinds of wealth..........


    PS:Go-lo, G W Bush modified that speech, updated it to modern times, if you will: "You have nothing to fear but.......ME."

  5. Wonderful expression of humanity.

    Now is the time to pull together. Dispiriting that Congress is split on party lines on the recovery programs.

    Our officials need to set aside politics, pull together, show confidence in the system, and not worry about the next election cycle. If this fails, everyone will be swept out of office and there will be soup kitchens in the cities, and they won't be serving vichyssoise.

  6. For us, a small indie bookshop, these are perilous times indeed. Workers are being laid off, people are hoarding money, and it's scary.

    But we have customers, true and loyal, who come in to tell us why they're not able to buy like they used to, and we have some folks who have been increasing what they buy just to help out.

    There's a generosity of spirit and feeling of community out there that is real and it's deep. But the fear of "what if" has lots of people paralyzed.