You know me. I’m the man you once stood next to at the train station, the woman you sat next to on the bus. I’m the person you stood behind on line at the checkout counter. I’m the guy you saw walking his dog, the woman who sold you popcorn at the football game, the man who mows his lawn every Saturday morning. I’m the customer you haven’t seen in a while, the one who used to buy his wife a gift every year for their wedding anniversary. I’m the woman who used to drop off her little girl at the day care center, and the woman who used to help out every year with the craft fair. I’m the man who always greeted you with a smile and a friendly nod of his head, even though you don’t know him personally. I’m the person you shook hands with when we offered each other the sign of Peace at church last week.

You used to see me all the time, but you haven’t seen me at social events in quite a while. You make a mental note of my absence when you think of it, but then your thoughts move on to other things.

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I want to tell you what happened to me, but its really hard. You see, something terrible happened. I lost my job a few months ago. The company just let me go because of the struggling economy. It wasn’t because of anything I did or didn’t do. It had nothing to do with my performance on the job. They just couldn’t sustain the business any longer and had to make some tough decisions. I drew the short straw.

I’m in real trouble now. I’ve depleted all my savings. I’ve fallen behind paying my bills. I feel lucky the unemployment checks cover my food and some of my utilities expenses, but its not enough. My spouse works, but her pay isn’t enough to cover the taxes, the insurance premiums, or the loan payments. We haven’t paid our mortgage in months. We can’t afford to fix the car, or the leaky pipe in the house. We no longer can afford the Cobra payments on our health insurance so we’re not going to the doctor or the dentist any more when we really need to.

Last week, one of the credit card collection departments informed me they were going to file a lawsuit against me because they haven’t been able to collect the debt. A bank has demanded payment in full for a student loan they haven’t received payments on in months. I had to ask the school to cover the expense of my daughter’s field trip because of our situation. There is not a day that goes by now that someone from some collection department doesn’t call asking for a status and when we are going to start making payments again. My credit score is in the cellar.

I stay up at night wondering what is going to happen to my children, to their future. I don’t care much about my own anymore, but I don’t want my children to end up like me. I wonder when the bank is going to take the house from us, and when it will be time to file bankruptcy. And I wonder if I’ll live long enough to ever see a time when we’ve finally recovered from this mess.

Did I tell you, I’m skilled? I’m educated. I have a college degree. I have my Master’s. I went and picked up that certification, that license. I have years and years of work experience. The kind of experience your firm is looking for.

But for some reason you think there’s something wrong with me, that I’m tainted somehow. I’m radioactive. There must be a reason why I’m unemployed. So you go and recruit from among those already working, and ignore me. You filter me out.

But I’m actually a better prospect. I’ll work for less. And I’ll work harder than the next person. It was a mistake that I lost my job. And I’ll prove it to you.

Thanks for the interview. I’ve applied to literally hundreds of job openings and you were the only one to invite me in. But why didn’t you get back to me? Why don’t you return my phone calls, or my emails? What was wrong with my presentation? What didn’t you like about my background? What was I missing? What do I need to do to change your mind? Was the position ever filled?

Why won’t you hire me? You have the money. You have the resources. You have the needs. I have the qualifications. Why are you sitting on the sideline? Why are you keeping all that money in the bank?

What are you waiting for?

I am someone’s brother, someone’s sister, mother, father, son or daughter. I am a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, an associate. I’m in your network, your database, your pipeline.

I am able-bodied and ready to get back to work, to make a contribution, to feel useful again. I want to feel useful again.

I’m hurting real bad now. Only a job will make things any better. I need to work. Please bring me back to work.

I am the unemployed.