TAKING THE PINK SLIP
by Ralph Hanahan as told to Sherri Langton
Things didn't look good at work. In late summer 2008 the
state of South Carolina, where I'd been employed for twenty-two
years, struggled with budget problems. All agencies would be
cutting expenses, and some might reduce their workforce. The one
I served three years as a computer tech, Governor's School for
the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, could be one of them.
The next few weeks, my wife, jenny, and I discussed how a layoff
would impact us. Things would be tough: The national economy had
begun a severe downturn, with layoffs in the news almost nightly.
Jenny worked as a real estate agent but was bringing home little
because of the housing market slump. Still, we both came to the
same conclusion: If the choice of a layoff came down between my
co-worker, Mike Camp, and me, I should be the one to go.
That might sound strange, since I had seniority over Mike in
the state system and was within seven years of retiring. But Mike
and I had become close friends. Plus I was in my mid-fifties with
a grown son; Mike was just forty years old and married with four
young children, ages six to ten. The youngest, Aaron, was
severely autistic. Over time he had made remarkable progress in
therapy. Jenny and I agreed we couldn't just stand by and let a
layoff end a salary and medical benefits the Camp family
As we prayed about the matter, we found guidance in the
Scriptures: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down
his life for his friends," Jesus said (John 15:13, NIV). Though I
wasn't literally laying down my life for Mike, I did see my job
as part of my life. Would I let it go for Mike's sake?
We also read, "Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life will preserve it" (Luke 17:33, NIV).
It's natural to protect yourself when hardship comes along. Could
Jesus be telling me that self-sacrifice was the best way to
preserve my life?
Those scriptures, plus prayer, cemented our decision. I
notified Governor's School that, if someone had to be eliminated,
I would take the layoff for Mike. God's peace held us steady.
As weeks went by and the economy worsened, the school began
laying off some part-time, non-permanent staff. When I returned
to work from a short vacation in October, rumors circulated
around the school that I would be laid off. Sure enough, the
Friday before Thanksgiving break, I was called to the human
resources office and told that my job was being cut. "Why don't
you think about it over the weekend," the HR director suggested,
referring to my offer to take the layoff for Mike. But I didn't
need to think about it; my mind was made up.
I got home around 4:30 that afternoon - earlier than usual.
Jenny took one look at me and knew instantly I'd been let go. I
wasn't sure how she'd react: With the real estate meltdown, she
needed help with her personal bills. I knew this decision would
financially hurt her as well as me.
When I explained the circumstances to Jenny, she told me,
"There isn't anything else you could have done." That relieved me
so much. We both knew my taking the layoff was the right thing to
do and that God would provide for us someway.
All this time I thought the layoff was just between the
Camps and us, but Mike's mother contacted Good Morning America
about it. In December, the whole story came out with Mike's
family, Jenny, and me on national TV - the Camps' way of saying
thanks. I was surprised and embarrassed by all this attention,
since we hadn't intended for this to go any further than my
coworker and his family.
It saddened me for our nation, that what we did would be
considered a big deal. Not long ago it would have been considered
part of the "American way," but now people considered it
newsworthy. Has compassion died in America? Perhaps it's
declining, but my heart says that many others are doing similar
things, without notice.
Jenny and I received many e-mail messages, blog posts, and
well wishes after that TV appearance. The comments ranged from
"My faith in humanity has been restored" to "You have shown us
what a true Christian example is." Though grateful that others
were inspired by what they'd seen or heard, I agonized over why
the spotlight should be on me and how to focus all the praise on
God our Father. This led me to think of Jesus' words:
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be
hidden.... In the same way, let your light shine before men, that
they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven"
(Matthew 5:14,16, NIV).
The next few months of job searching proved tough. I had
been without work when our son was young, so I knew things
wouldn't be easy. But at the time of my layoff from the school,
South Carolina ranked second in the nation for unemployment. I
filed applications online and fought discouragement when no work
came through. To make things worse, Jenny didn't have one house
sale during that time. We depended on the prayers of our church
family, friends, and concerned strangers. Thanks to them, we
continued to thrive on God's peace. Even on our hardest days
neither Jenny nor I regretted my taking the layoff for Mike.
In April our prayers were finally answered: I was offered
work from the state at a different agency, and then a second
offer came at a higher salary. The job allowed me to reenter the
state's retirement system as well. We know this extra blessing
came from God, since most state jobs were frozen at the time.
Looking back, Jenny and I wonder how we survived financially
during those five months without work. Except for a small sum
given by a friend, we received no assistance from anyone. Through
the comfort and providence of our Lord, we made it.
And we learned several lessons along the way. We learned how
to support each other during job loss. We learned that sometimes
God uses a bad situation to teach what it means to do the right
thing. We learned that God is still in charge of the affairs of
His people and that He will not abandon His children; He will
provide in His time and way if we're patient.
Ralph and Jenny Hanahan fellowship with Midlands Christian Church
of God, an unaffiliated Sabbatarian group in Columbia, SC. He
serves as an elder there.
From "The Bible Advocate" - July/August 2009 - a publication of
the Church of God, Seventh Day, Denver, CO. USA.
Through the years of my life I've known what it is like to be out
of work, albeit just a few times. I've also known all my life ...
well from a young boy, the verse where Jesus said, "Seek you
first the Kingdon of God and His righteousness, and all these
(the daily needs) will be added unto you." That's in the famous
so-called "sermon on the mount" in the Gospels.
These articles have given you insight and education as to how to
help yourself when out of work.
I'll leave you with just a few added thoughts of mine:
If you have a "skill" and get the pink slip, then you may need to
think about trying to use that skill where it is needed, which
may mean a move to another part of the country. Yes, for some,
that is a lot to consider, having to move.
If you get the pink slip and do not have a "skill" or specific
"trade" - you should consider going for the "skilled retraining"
programs that are always out there in such a time as recession.
If you are leaving High School you need to sit down, evaluate
your natural skills and likes and dislikes (life is not much fun
when doing a job you do not like), get on the Internet or go to
the job marketing offices and see what they say will be the jobs
of the future, the ones needed to fill when the baby-boomers all
retire. My youngest son did this some years back. He's the
"practical" blue collar guy, hands on skilled worker type (just
as I am). He discovered that one of the 3 top jobs in Canada for
the next 20 years or so (because of retirements and the market
movement [which of course can change]) will be the skilled
"welding/prefab" work. Already having done some pretty amazing
building stuff in his High School years (with no specific
training as such), we "went for it" as they say. Did his
training, got his skills perfected, received his certified
certificate. He's been very employed ever since at the "dock
yards" in Vancouver, B.C.
Personally, I'm skilled in 4 practical skills - I have my
certified "Orthopedic Shoemaker/Orthotics" certificate. I'm
skilled in the "Shoe Repair" industry - I'm skilled in the
various parts of the "Horse World" - and I'm skilled in the
"Music Teaching" world (guitar, banjo, mandolin, uke, steel
guitar, bass guitar). Hence very few times indeed have I been
"unemployed" in my entire life. Still going strong; the only
skills I no longer practice is in the Orthopedic Shoemaking/Shoe
Repair skilled world.
So, if you do get the "pink slip" .... well consider it an
opportunity to move on in your life, one way or another.