Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas for Job Hunters and Those Who Care About Them

On December 15th, 1998, I rushed my baby daughter to the hospital.  She had gone in to heart arrest.  This would be the 4th time in as many months, but this time as I handed her to the emergency room nurse I said, “It’s time.  She’s old enough now.  Please do the heart surgery.” 

Shannon was now 4 and half months old.  This time traffic was heavy and we cut in close.  We couldn’t use an ambulance because we live on the border between two provinces and the ‘children’s hospital’ was on the other side.  The ambulance wasn’t allowed to drive her there. 

Thankfully, each time she had gone into heart arrest it happened at night.  On a good night I could make it to the hospital in about 8 minutes.  We had roughly 13 minutes to travel the 19.2 kilometers before brain damage would start to set in, so we had to leave as soon as we heard her stop breathing.  Because of the urgency we had to leave our other 3 children at home alone.  To make sure they were safe, we had enlisted a mini army of volunteers who were on the ready – for up to 6 months – to get to our house if their phone rang in the middle of the night.  They knew it was us calling – and we’d already left before they’d had time to answer the phone.  Why we had to drive our daughter ourselves, is due more to politics than the health-care system.

Our good fortune saw us able to take her home on the 20th in time for Christmas.  And it was a joyous Christmas indeed.   To thank our friends and neighbour’s and the army of volunteers who watch over our other 3 children when we decide to have a New Year’s Eve party. 

I really thought my ‘gift’ had been the safe return of my baby daughter.  I would soon discover that Shannon’s return was just the beginning of a gift that would last more than 13 years and likely until my death 56 years from now. 

Here’s where this story really begins. 

It was a big party.  We had very little furniture in our house at the time so it wasn’t hard to fit the 100+ adults and children.  That night I learned that several of the people I really thought I knew well, where out of work.  I was shocked to hear both had been out of work for quite a while and hadn’t said anything to anyone.  In fact the only reason I found out was because one of them had thanked me profusely for inviting his entire family, accidently confessing they hadn’t eaten like this in months…. which lead to my discovery of his being in between opportunities.  (I helped fix that quickly in the New Year.)

I admit I was shocked.  Shocked I didn’t know how bad things were for him and his family: shocked that he hadn’t said anything.  Disappointed at myself because I hadn’t paid closer attention.  And humbled that he and his family – who were in such a terrible situation – took the time to help us with our baby when he could have/should have been pounding the pavement looking for work. 

That night Anita and I started what has become a tradition amongst our friends, old and new.

Every year we have a Christmas party.  I know a lot of people.  We invited old friends, new friends and many of our clients who live in Ottawa.  It often takes Anita up to 3 days to prep ear for it and we all have a good time. 

No one has ever known – until just now – one of the side benefits of the party… that several of our friends miraculously seem to find new ‘career opportunities’ talking with someone at the party. 

Now, I understand that not everyone has the time or energy to arrange a party to help their unemployed friends find a job.  And in fact if people knew what you were doing they likely wouldn’t attend out of misplaced pride Fotolia_35416879_L– however I know you can still make a huge impact on someone you know AND not have to worry about their ego getting in the way and destroying the friendship.

Here are a few ideas we’ve done over the years:

  • Make a mortgage payment or pay their property taxes for them.
  • Order a cord of wood or pay for a delivery of oil for their furnace.
  • Slip a gift card for groceries or a department store anonymously in their mail box.
  • Pay their Internet or their subscription to the newspaper [both of which are essential to job hunters and ironically are often the first to be cut from the family budget]. 
  • Pay their utility bill.

Use your imagination.  [None of the above are guaranteed to be easy to do in your area of the world.]

Do it quietly and expect nothing in return.  Never tell them.  Never admit to it.  If they find out you risk losing your friendship, not strengthening it, so be anonymous no matter if they hint about it later because pride is a funny thing.  Just keep emotions out of it and do the right thing. 

We’ve done this every year since 1998 – and not just at Christmas.   Shannon’s safe return was not the only ‘gift’ I received that Christmas.  I discovered how to give back in a meaningful way and feel good about privately – that was my Christmas bonus in 1998. bonus.

So why am I writing about this now? Because the last 10 years has dramatically changed the world around us.  Economic uncertainty and change are now the only constant and many people have no idea how to cope with the change.  Many have lost hope as their lives spiral out of control.  All jobs are temporary now and unemployment and foreclosure is only a handful of paychecks away for most people.  For me, Christmas and Hanuka signify hope, and hope is all that many job hunters have right now.  so today I'm letting you know about ways to help others that you might not have considered before.  That's it.

So if you have a job I invite you to to enjoy the gift of giving. 

And if you're looking for work right now I implore you to let your friends and family know how they can best help.   Consider this – wouldn't you help them if you knew they were in trouble?  Give us the same opportunity today.  We may need your help tomorrow.  letting us help is a great gift.

God bless – Happy Hanuka and Merry Christmas


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