Kind words keep gloom at bay in these tough times

  • By Sarri Gilman Herald Columnist
  • Monday, November 24, 2008 4:46pm
  • Life

I know the statistics don’t make it sound like lots of people are looking for work, but I keep meeting folks who have been laid off. The true number of people out of work feels like a dark, heavy gloom settling over us all.

I have the sense that we are just at the beginning of a growing wave.

I witnessed something very touching and inspiring against this terribly sad backdrop, and I am sharing it with Herald readers because I believe we can all take something from this moment.

I was going to a meeting at Campbell’s Stockpot Soups in Everett. I was in my shiny heels, my long warm wool coat and my glasses with little sparkles. I felt pulled together and looked forward to meeting my associate. The Stockpot building is one of those artistic, uplifting-looking buildings. Its artful touches grace all parts of the design. I looked good in my professional gear in this nice building.

As I approached the artsy glass door, a young man stepped up quickly behind me to hold the door open. He looked like he had been out walking in the cold and wind a darn long time. His clothes were a bit dirty, and he was only wearing sneakers, jeans and a paper-thin jacket against the cold wind and rain.

His face was very young and freckled, with large brown eyes that I wished had more hope in them.

He stood behind me as I checked in with the receptionist at Stockpot Soups.

Heidi Grimes was sitting behind the architecturally curvy desk, shiny as penny, welcoming me to Stockpot Soups and giving me a visitor badge.

I stepped away from Heidi’s reception desk and the young man stepped forward.

“How can I help you?” bright and shiny Heidi asked the young man.

She greeted and welcomed him like he was very important.

He asked if they had any work, any job. He’d load boxes, work any hours they needed, anything at all. He looked down at the floor.

I looked down at the floor. He was desperate for work.

My heart sank. I thought, this isn’t how people find jobs. Heidi will probably tell him there aren’t any jobs, and if they have them, they are posted in the paper, not on her desk. It wouldn’t be her job to collect resumes, and he didn’t look like he had a resume stuffed in his pocket.

But, you know, that’s not what happened.

If that happened, I wouldn’t be writing about it.

What really happened is this: bright and shiny Heidi said, “Go ahead to the employees’ entrance. You walk right in there, and you’ll see the jobs we have open hanging on the wall. You can talk to someone in there.”

I almost jumped up and threw my arms around her. What a kindhearted response. What a hopeful moment in the day.

We’re all going to be seeing lots of people looking for work. I hope we can all give compassionate responses and encourage everyone at the front desks and on the phone to take a moment to be kind, not only because it could be any one of us, but because the best way to fight off the gloom is to not create any gloom unnecessarily.

Sarri Gilman is a freelance writer living on Whidbey Island and director of Leadership Snohomish County. Her column on living with meaning and purpose runs every other Tuesday in The Herald. She is a therapist, a wife and a mother, and has founded two nonprofit organizations to serve homeless children. You can e-mail her at

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