As the most difficult year of my professional career comes to a close, I am reminded of the greatest gift to all mankind. How many of us would be willing to sacrifice for others, even if it's not much of a sacrifice at all? Up until this point and in the very near future, our family will discover more about ourselves as we discover more about others. While those who offer of themselves to help us are not doing it for recognition, I feel that they would be fine with some mention of their deeds in order to inspire others to be more Christ-like in their own dealings, so this article will discuss the generosity and surprising lack of it in our family's immediate world.
I don't want to harbor on the negative, so I'm going start with two surprisingly poor acts done to our family at our time of need before I discuss some of the unexpected surprises. First, the School District of Menomonee Falls and Menomonee Falls High School deserve recognition as leading the way in how not to treat others. I can certainly get over the fact that they needed to get rid of a teacher who made a whopping $50,000 a year. The budget dictated it. Maybe they should have targeted a new teacher, but whatever. Mostly, however, I was surprised by the lack of respect given to me when it came to severance, and that's because there was nothing. They were taking my big salary off the books and I didn't even get fifty bucks per sick day I never took (and I never took one). Just a kick in the ass and a spiritless goodbye.
Which leads me to my union. WEAC. WEAK? I'm still waiting for anything from them. Fine, they weren't going to win a lawsuit for me, but I invested nearly ten thousand dollars in the Union. I guess my last hope was for a Christmas gift that might soften the blow of soon-to-be-lost unemployment. But it is not to be. WEAC turned the other cheek and ran, and NEA is Not Even Around. Right after Christmas I'll give both unions one last chance to help a fellow American down on his luck, but so far, so bad.
Beyond employers and unions, I've mostly got love for the rest of the world, and the rest of the world mostly falls into the category of people who express outward disgust for what has happened to me, those who feel bad for me but think I got what I deserved, and those who really wish they could do something but don't know what.
Those who show outward disgust try to make me feel better, even if their own opinions and votes led to my layoff. This includes many of the guys from my baseball team. They could see I wasn't the lazy, good-for-nothing teacher they would talk about hypothetically while listening to talk radio, so they didn't mean me when they grabbed their pitchforks and stormed the castle. Conversely, when I get upset with banks and bankers, I don't mean half my team or my brother-in-law. If they lost their jobs because of my rants, I would feel bad for them.
The next group of people may or may not act like they have compassion for our situation. However, they see it as an opportunity to gloat because a teacher got what he deserved. These are the people that take their hatred for a certain group to the personal level and feel better when their wrath has resulted in someone else suffering. They're the ones who would be impressed with themselves if a letter of complaint results in a waitress getting fired. They want to try the next new education fad because it must be better than the last. Some of these people live in Menomonee Falls and maybe even knew my name, but that's about it. I'm not a person to them but a representative of a hated group. They have anger and fear and mistrust for those who make a lot less money and are their (public) servants. These people will gloat in their comments posted on news sites but not to my face. I feel bad for these people and pray for them.
Now that I have dwelt too long on the negative, I must at least mention the surprisingly positive. Some people went out of their way to help us this year, and they need to at least be alluded to in this article, even if not entirely by individual name. Some people wrote eloquent encouragement in their Christmas letters, which was appreciated. Some others even sent some cash, which was also appreciated, even if it was slightly uncomfortable (not their faults). One friend offered me a couple of website jobs for when unemployment ran out, and another couple bought my book on Amazon. Yet another gave us oil change gift certificates. Nice of them and certainly not expected.
While it may be somewhat expected that my parents help out in some way, they went beyond what was expected, helping with gifts of groceries and cash at Christmas. In fact, they might have imagined their gifts were making me lazy or complacent, but those gifts really did drive me to be ready to stand up on my own as I begin Passive Ninja Web Design in earnest.
The other more-than-generous and quite surprising gift came from a family that had lived down the block from us for a few years. No rich uncles. No public outpouring of support like in It’s a Wonderful Life. No surprise collection at church. Ironically enough, this demonstration of Christian charity came from friends of ours that many, if not most, Christian churches would not even consider to be Christian (they’re LDS). In addition, they acknowledged the religious differences AND refused a free website as a token of my gratitude. Remember, this family only lived on our block for a few years.
So, here come the big questions. Why did they do it? Is it typical of LDS members? Do they support each other this way? Is anything expected in return? And so on. Obviously, they always have a place to stay if they return to Wisconsin, but they know Lisa works for our church and that we’re not converting. They know that they’re back out West and should not have felt guilty simply ignoring the situation. Some of you are cynics and would say it’s part of what their church expects: good works. And you might mention that the family’s wealth allowed for it. (I often say similar things.) However, even if their church does encourage good works and they have fortunate employment, churches around here encourage members to be Christian-like, and we have plenty of wealthy people in our extended circle of acquaintance. Beyond that, I was part of a union with well over 100,000 current and past members, and none of them offered anything. All those Christians who talk about being Christ-like and all those retired teachers who talked like socialists while negotiating their own fat contracts. In essence, most of us are human, but Lisa and I have learned about charity and humility during this experience, and we will carry that forward when we help others in the future.