30+ Days Of Gray…When Will It End?
Catchy title, right? Unfortunately, with no end in sight, many in my hometown are in a gray state of mind. I wish I was merely writing about a color. I am writing about the state of mind found in MANY furloughed government employee’s. Gray really does matter when it comes to the feeling gloomy, disconnected, in a holding pattern state of mind…and it is not your fault. 800,000+/- government employees are being held hostage when all they want to do is feed their families, pay their bills and perform the job they were hired to do. Instead, they are being punished and treated like second class citizens, as well as being held hostage by their own government. Something is wrong about this.
Growing up in the DMV (DC, Maryland & Virginia), most people were quite proud to work the proverbial government job. My family, like most African American families that migrated from the South, has a history of being proud to work for the Federal government. Upon graduation from high school, I remember my Dad saying the best job, secure job and most importantly — a job with a future was a government job. Particularly, becoming a Secretary. If you know me, you would know that would never have been my life’s dream. I remember my Dad also sharing this with many young people he counseled as a Minister. I can only imagine him rolling restlessly in his grave at what is happening to 800+ government employees today.
I am sure that many of us know a government employee or a contractor that is furloughed. Perhaps it is a proud single Mom or Dad of young children. It could be a single parent who recently just started getting ahead. Like most government employees, perhaps this employee is proud of the growth achieved in recent years. Now faced with the second pay period with no paycheck, emotions are fragile, confidence is crumbling, and efforts to keep a stiff upper lip often fail. For those who did save or receive subsidies, things are running low, just like the food in your pantry. Like many people across the country, this speed bump was not anticipated and it is not their fault. I have watched vibrant hardworking young people in my community, sink into a world of gray. Is this the thanks they get for being a government employee or contractor? Gray does matter.
There are many people waiting for that second letter stating what they can do to “get by” while furloughed. Waiting for that letter to come in the mail to take to the rental office because some think that the Landlords will “understand”. Some think that the bill collectors will play nice and leave the lights on, the heat running and water available. I choke up when I hear these statements. It brought back memories of living through a furlough with my ex-husband. Trying to keep a positive upbeat attitude in front of the children, while worrying about the mortgage, the utilities, food, and praying that no emergency popped up. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Gray has the ability to break the spirit. That part of my life journey seemed like a lifetime ago…until now.
My older, African American neighborhood is filled with proud government employees. Our history reflects leaving the South for a “Good Government Job”. My neighbors take pride in their employment choice. As this furlough continues, I notice the gray seeping into my sleepy community. Cars aren’t moving, public transportation has noticeably fewer riders, the absence of lines in the grocery store, the Malls are almost empty and the restaurants always have empty tables. Most days, my 45-minute commute has taken 17–25 minutes due to lack of traffic. It is strange noticing that the familiar cars are absent from the roadways. A gray cloud has settled over my hometown and it just won’t go away.
Gray does matter. There is no red, no blue…just gray. When you are held hostage, no one really knows the outcome. When there is no end in sight and things are out of your control, the gray settles in like a blanket. A heavy, gloomy, gray blanket that is slowly smothering dreams of success in the DMV. I fear that it will take some time for my hometown to regain it’s footing in the midst of the madness, although I am trying to be optimistic.
30+ days of gray and counting. It sounds like a slow dripping, morbid, dark novel. As the days slowly drip with no progress in sight, I am beginning to wonder. What is the mental toll that is slowly chipping away on the minds of the furloughed employee and their families? Will there be mental health assistance available for the furloughed families as this will affect the family? How do we explain this to the children? How does the local economy stay afloat — the daycare providers, the rideshare companies, commuter buses, the small businesses, restaurants, etc.? Will the local economy survive if this continues? Will it become a practice to disable the government instead of talking things out in future administrations? How do we look to the rest of the world at large? How many shades of gray will hover over the Nation’s Capitol before it suffocates the beauty that surrounds us? When will the gray go away?
30+ days of gray and counting. Playing with the lives of the people that have chosen to be Federal government employees or contractors is not prudent. It breaks the spirit of those who are already struggling in spite of it all. Although the spirit of many diverse populations has been broken before, many are shocked that this has gone on this long with no serious conversation. It is almost as if those affected are expendable. This is going to affect history in so many ways, for a very long time. THAT is not a good thing.
I pray the gray will go away…