Friday, March 27, 2009

Strangers Lend a Hand

Yesterday when I was reading a Wall Street Journal article on strangers helping strangers find jobs an incident from several years ago came to mind. I was at a diner in Georgetown and had just finished my meal when I realized, to great embarrassment, that I'd forgotten my wallet at home. As I started to explain to my server what had happened, a gentlemen seated further down the counter offered to pay for my meal. I will never forget my feeling of gratitude towards that man for his simple act of kindness.

Having been unemployed several times, the experience transfers. At first, there's a sensation of fear, realizing you no longer have income. Then, you're explaining your situation to people (networking with strangers). And, seemingly out of the blue, a person hears you -- really listens to you -- and offers to help. It never ceases to amaze me that it happens every time. How friends of friends extend their network, former colleagues, spouse's colleagues, neighbors, acquaintances from daycare, old friends from high school and college, and now even virtual acquaintances via Twitter, LinkedIn and the rest.

It's made me realize that I was never truly alone at that diner in Georgetown, and you are not alone either. That this hidden network has always existed, sitting silently on all sides, waiting for the word to step in and help out. That people are pulling for you. That they want you to succeed.

So, if you're unemployed right now, let the shock wear down, start telling people your story, and eventually you will find someone who's listening, someone who has been, in fact, waiting to hear your story.

And if you're employed, open your ears to the conversations around you. Need surrounds us in small ways and large. When we open ourselves to hear the message, we can create better outcomes for everyone, whether it's buying someone lunch, offering a smile, or actually helping a stranger find a new job.


  1. Excellent post Katie. One of the things that has absolutely AMAZED me as I have begun to make the transition from school into work life is the willingness of members of community, and members of THEIR community, to go out of their way for me.

    I think people genuinely feel best when they are being kind. :)

  2. Thanks for your words, Alexis. It's encouraging to hear about your experience! More proof that people are reaching out to each other in beautiful ways.