Tuesday, September 02, 2014

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: Turning feeling of betrayal into positive living

By AMY NEWKIRK, Chicken Soup for the Soul | 10/18/2013

How do you find the silver lining in something as life changing and heartbreaking as being laid off? Helen Stein had to ask herself that exact question when, after 20 years of service to the same staffing company, she received the call — your services are no longer needed. Still, she made the best of her situation, as she explains in her story “No Longer Needed,” in our book about counting your blessings.

When Helen was told that her position was being eliminated, she was shocked and angry. “I felt betrayed,” she writes. “I worked hard for that company and gave them 20 good years of my life.” Looking in the mirror, noticing her wrinkles and sagging skin, Helen let the hurt set in. “I felt like an old hen that had been booted out of the coop.”

How do you find the silver lining in something as life changing and heartbreaking as being laid off? Helen Stein had to ask herself that exact question when, after 20 years of service to the same staffing company, she received the call — your services are no longer needed. Still, she made the best of her situation, as she explains in her story “No Longer Needed,” in our book about counting your blessings.

When Helen was told that her position was being eliminated, she was shocked and angry. “I felt betrayed,” she writes. “I worked hard for that company and gave them 20 good years of my life.” Looking in the mirror, noticing her wrinkles and sagging skin, Helen let the hurt set in. “I felt like an old hen that had been booted out of the coop.”

In a strange coincidence, the day her job ended was also her 38th wedding anniversary with her husband, Ken. When Ken came home and she gave him the news, he was stunned, too. Although Helen was planning retirement soon, she still relied on the income from her job. Ken, ever supportive, knew exactly what to say to ease the stress. “For now, why don’t you think of it as a well-deserved, long vacation,” he said, and laid out a plan for how they could cut back on their spending. Slowly, Helen’s pain began to dissipate.

Helen filed for unemployment and noticed a funny thing — she enjoyed being unemployed. The lines at the grocery store were short during work hours. She had time to work in her garden. She woke up early, feeling refreshed without the buzzing of the alarm clock. “I discovered a new kind of happiness,” Helen writes, “and my fear of fading into oblivion dissolved. I am now eager to discover how the next chapter in my life will unfold, and since I can’t travel back in time (and I’m not sure that I would want to), I will forge ahead and think positive.” It wasn’t Helen’s plan to retire when she did, but sometimes we need to make the best of the plan life makes for us.

•••

“You may not use the word ‘symbolism’ or ‘symbolic’ in my classroom,” said the teacher, who was also the head of the English department at Horace Greeley High School. This seemed ridiculous to me. Sure, kids overused the word “symbolic” in class, but they were there to learn. Instead of banning the word, why not teach us the proper usage? I raised my hand and said, “But there are times when the word ‘symbolic’ is appropriate,” and then I gave an example from a poem that we had read.

The next thing I knew I was kicked out. And that petty man, being the department head, wouldn’t allow me to switch to another English class. I was a senior and I was not going to graduate.

The administration wouldn’t bend until my mother met with the principal and pointed out that I was applying to Harvard and had not actually committed a felony. They worked out a compromise and found another English teacher who was willing to take me on probation, juvenile delinquent that I was. I spent the rest of the year happily reading Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and other classic literature, writing essays that contained lots of naughty words such as “symbolic,” “metaphor” and “simile.”

A large number of my classmates came up to me after I was kicked out of English class and told me I was right. Not a single one of them had the courage to stand up to that teacher with me.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” It was only English class, not an important struggle like the one for civil rights, but I did feel betrayed.

I was reminded of this incident by teenager Alexis Streb. After her brother was diagnosed with autism, Alexis reprimanded her teacher for telling the class not to act like “the kids on the short bus.”

She says: “The entire room was laughing when I raised my hand. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say, but I wanted to be heard.” Alexis told her teacher, “I don’t think we should make fun of the short bus, because there are a lot of people on that bus who have great personalities and have the same feelings we do.”

Her teacher immediately apologized. Alexis concluded by saying: “I had spoken the truth and what others in the class were probably thinking. While everyone in the classroom was being a follower, I had decided to take a different path.”

Like Alexis, I would rather suffer the consequences of speaking up than remain quiet.

Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, www.chickensoup.com

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