Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “unemployed”

It’s Not About The Money

When I came to the US, I was told there are three subjects you don’t broach at a dinner, party or other social gathering: politics, money and eating habits. I don’t excel in small talk. I find it difficult to hear about the health issues of someone’s (who I might not see for a few months) great aunt (who I’ve never met). I crave meaningful interactions.

I can talk sports, but not baseball or American football – English soccer or cricket anyone? And I wonder why no one talks to me at parties? I love talking politics and can pass an evening enjoyably with an intelligent person further left or right of my opinion. But apparently this is on the no-no list and might explain why I’m not invited to many parties.

I am actually interested in people’s eating habits and their efforts to lose weight and stay healthy. Of course, I spoil it by sharing that I think most of the US’s problems would be solved if the entire country turns vegan. It might be that I’ve brought politics back into the conversation, but it doesn’t help my credibility that I’m holding a smoked salmon bagel.

And then there is the subject of money. I’m not sure if the guests at this dinner party have noticed, but we are in the middle of a horrendous recession. People are losing their homes, sacrificing medical needs, and losing their dreams of retirement with honor and respect.

People are hurting and chances are they are in this room. And I want to know so that I can be supportive, so that I don’t make things worse:

– I won’t offer to take your kid to Six Flags, knowing you have to cough up $40 for a ticket.

– I won’t suggest we go to a restaurant for dinner. I’ll invite you round to my house and fry up some sweet ‘n sour tofu. I have a two-buck Chuck that goes well with it.

– I won’t share my accomplishments at work when I know you are unemployed.

– And most importantly, I want to show that I care.

It makes me wonder. Do people really know what is happening if no one is talking. Sure we read newspapers (do we?), watch political TV shows (The Daily Show, anyone?), and peruse blogs. But all we hear about here are statistics.

It might be that 10% are unemployed and 13% don’t have health insurance, but the fact that 90% do work and 83% have health insurance alienates the minority in the room. It makes them ashamed and subconscious. Perhaps they didn’t even come to the party because they couldn’t bear to face the rest of us.

Money influences everything: our health, lifestyle, and the way we perceive each other. Moreover, it influences how we define our own self-worth. We need to smash this barrier of shame. We need for those friends who are hurting to know that we want them at the party because they are good people. They are our friends and family.

 I’m not sure the answer is talking about baseball.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Writing in a Bad Economy: Giveaway Offer

A friend consoled me. “Bad luck really, hoping people will buy your book when the economy has crashed. I mean it’s not just the purchase. Who’s gonna have any time or emotional strength to get into a novel?”

Actually, I wasn’t feeling so bad and this somehow encouraged him to try and bury me (yes, I did say he is a friend). “With disposable income rapidly shrinking, consumers may well hold back from buying new books. Why not cut corners and go to the used bookstore? I bet there is an upsurge in the amount of people utilizing their library?”

I would love to take issue with him, but I am meeting a lot of people who are scared. As the winter draws near and it gets darker earlier, people are scurrying for their safe space. Economic fears make people feel vulnerable and without hope for the future.
The Accidental Activist is about feeling vulnerable and disempowered. Two individuals face a huge machine that is greedy and without care. It’s about multinationals, not Wall Street, but from the same neighborhood. Perhaps the actions of my lead characters might help inspire others to reach above a feeling of helplessness. If The Accidental Activist says anything, it is that an individual can survive and make a difference, even against a rich and powerful system.

So maybe this is a better time than ever to curl up with a good book. And maybe a book that highlights empowerment will help someone through this economic winter. It seems to work for this guy (or gal).

If you know someone who is unemployed, feeling deflated, and would get something out of The Accidental Activist, please let me know. Between now and the end of the year I will send five books anonymously to people who need it. If you want to chip in and share the expense of the book and postage, that’s great. But I will not ask or require it of you.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com



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