Neal’s Story

In the late 1990s I was working as an environmental consultant for an engineering firm in Atlanta. I had been with the firm for nearly eleven years when the owner instituted a drastic reorganization of the company. There were three divisions within the firm and I was the director of one. The owner decided to eliminate the director positions for all three divisions and thus I and two other senior employees were unexpectedly unemployed. Needless to say, this was shocking and devastating to all three of us and our families. As the reality of what happen began to sink in I began to ask a lot of soul searching questions. What should I do first? Where should I go first? Why? Will I get through this without it having a negative lasting impact on my family? Did this happen for a reason I don’t currently understand? The questions kept coming but not many answers.

One answer that kept coming to mind was, “There must be a reason.” Maybe there was something right in front of me that needed my attention right now more than my career. Is it my family? Is it something else?

I began the process of updating my resume, reaching out to my business contacts, searching job databases and all the customary obligations one does at a time like that. Over the next few weeks, I was asked by the associate and senior pastors of my church if I would be interested in becoming involved in a local mission effort to refurbish a set of apartments that had been donated to an organization call Rainbow Village. Rainbow Village, it was explained to me, was an organization that provided housing for families on the brink of becoming homeless.

Well, I could not find a good reason to say no. I could still keep up the job search, schedule interviews, do the many small jobs around the house that always seem to get put off and still have time to spare. So, I agreed to meet with the Rainbow Village staff and see if I could help. Well the rest is history. Over the next several months I found myself coordinating efforts for work days at the apartments, assisting with furniture drives to furnish the apartments, painting, cleaning, repairing things and whatever else needed to be done. After several more months of job searching and working at the Rainbow Village apartments I began to notice that this thing was catching on all around me. More and more people from my church and about five or six other local churches were now involved and enjoying ever minute of it. A local hardware store even graciously offered to donate the much needed supplies. It seemed that the whole community wanted this to happen and there I was right in the middle of a bee hive of volunteers eager to help.

It took a full nine months to get everything finished to the point the apartments were ready for occupancy. On a Saturday before the first families arrived, the Rainbow Village staff held a barbeque picnic and dedication ceremony at the apartments. All were invited that had given so much time and effort. What a great day! After the dedication, I took one last walk through each beautifully refurbished and furnished apartment and it came to me like a splash of cold water in the face. I was done with this Rainbow Village project for now and I must re-double my efforts to find employment. Numerous interviews had resulted in no job offers and my unemployment compensation was about to end. Yet, there was a sense of calmness and quietness about the fact that I had now been unemployed for nine months.

Here is the amazing part of this story. The Monday after the picnic and dedication I received a very generous job offer from a highly respected engineering firm in Atlanta. I was to begin work as soon as possible. On Tuesday I opened the mailbox to find my final unemployment compensation check as my benefit period had ended. Life is full of coincidences isn’t it? I choose to believe otherwise.

Neal S.