Hunting Literacy and Basket Weaving

Oh the things you do for “free” money.

Thankfully I’m now employed (!!!) but I got the fun task of going to a 3 hour unemployment sadness charade this week. Supposedly a “training” opportunity, what I really understand it to be was a check-in to make sure you’re a real human and not defrauding the government.

While I don’t particularly mind doing the mountains of paperwork, calls and odd requirements of unemployment, this meeting brought into sharp relief how hard it is for a lot of people out there.

The closest Career Center is about an hour away in Lewiston, the closer ones having closed due to budget cuts. Some people in the room traveled over 2 hours to get there.

As the overly peppy coordinator, Patty, went around the room asking us our biggest “challenges,” I couldn’t help thinking: YOU.

Maine is a seasonal economy, but has also suffered huge company closures recently. The answers from my fellow unemployed were varied and saddening: “I’m just afraid,” “I don’t think I can earn a living wage anymore,” “I only worked for one company for 20 years, now what?” “I’m old! They look at me and immediately say no,” “I really need health insurance and no one will give it to me.”

The worst part was the immediate and visceral paternalism with which a lot of these concerns were met. When the Adult Ed woman came in, she looked at the room and focused on GED being our biggest need (most people in the room had multiple degrees of varying types), and then suggested we take classes to “widen our range.”

This woman assessed this group and suggested “our classes, all under $100, like Hunting Literacy and Basket Weaving.”

I would’ve laughed had I not been so offended.

How in the hell is any of this actually helping me get a job? How are the judgments you’ve made just by looking at this group helping the confidence so sorely needed when looking for work?

Yet in a not so different world, I could be her. Sitting on the other side of the table once in a while is pretty heavy reminder.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

 ~ Ian MacLaren


4 thoughts on “Hunting Literacy and Basket Weaving

  1. Steph!! Thank You! I am actually working in one of those centers now and although I’m not a government employee dealing specifically with unemployment, I know exactly what you are saying. I feel like I’m experiencing burn out from my environment, not my job duties. I’ve also been to a few trainings/been at meetings with speakers who talk about trauma informed care, and I think that has so much to do with this. People need to understand that those they are supposed to assist or just meet in the street can being going through a lot of things or have been through trauma that you can’t see. But the workforce system is so insensitive and unpractical, it’s very frustrating! I think your quote at the end is perfect.

    • Lauren I agree! Especially with all that’s going on in Moore right now (and other places) I think people just forget what they can’t immediately see. The trainer also made a comment like: “it’s not okay if you have been out of work for a year” – and a woman (very bravely) said, well what if you’ve been sick or caring for someone? (she obviously had been) And the trainer was like: well… I guess you just have to explain that. Wow, right?

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