Coffeehouse observation No. 229 – Hope carried on the wobbly legs of toddlers

 Hope is at the very core of what we are as humans, but it can be such a fleeting thing.

One moment a person feels hopeful that strong feelings will blossom into true love. The next moment that all comes crashing down. One moment a person feels hopeful that hard work will be recognized by supervisors. The next moment a co-worker claims the work as his own. One moment a person sees hope in the eyes of another. The next moment that hope is taken away.

It is not always easy to hold onto hope when things are not going as they should. Like so many Americans, I’ve been out of work for much longer than I ever expected I would be. It has been more than 20 months since I was laid off after 22 years in the newspaper business. It has been a demoralizing struggle to find work and so far it has been an unsuccessful search.

I have spent much of the time since being laid off in public libraries, bookstores and coffeehouses drinking coffee or green tea and scouring the Internet for employment opportunities. (OK, let’s face it – I’ve spent most of that time in coffeehouses.) I’ve sent out hundreds of resume packages and filled out countless applications.

And still no luck.

But I have never really lost hope – not even now – that I will find work again. Part of that comes from my belief that if I work as hard at finding a job as I did working at my previous jobs, then I very likely will find something even better than I had before. Persistence and patience – two traits of which I have abundance – will help me ride this stretch of misfortune and help me find work.

Another thing that has helped me cling to hope for myself is the expression of hope others have displayed.

I’m not talking something spectacular. I’m just talking about life, simple, everyday life.

As I sat in those public libraries, bookstores and (mostly) coffeehouses, something struck me – people were living their lives. Auto industry collapse, banking greed and collapse, housing market collapse, joblessness, two protracted wars, threat of terrorism – all of it be damned. People were living their lives despite these problems.

The most striking aspect was that young people – men and women couples, same-sex couples, single adults – seemed to be going ahead with having families. They were having babies. What greater sign that the future will be better is there than to go ahead with plans to have children, children who will live in that future?

No matter how terrible my job search was going on any given day, my mood always improved when I spotted a pregnant woman walked into the coffeehouse, either alone or with her partner. The fact that there were people still on Earth willing to chance it – were hopeful enough to have children – made me more hopeful, made me more willing to carry on with my own life.

Now, of course, part of that message of hope comes of the wobbly legs of toddlers who were born since my job search started. It is difficult to completely lose grip of hope when a young child looks up and beams a smile for no reason whatsoever and then waddle off for some other toddler adventure.

I do not know how long I will be able to hold out hope. The time is nearing when I will be without unemployment insurance. Without that very threadbare safety net, I do not know what happen.

But I know that hope – and persistence and patience – will be part of what gets me my next job. I get that from the message of hope in young parents and on the wobbly legs of toddlers.

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