Opinion | What Do You Say When Someone Loses Their Job?


That night, in bed, I opened the browser on my phone and typed, “how to get married in Arizona.” Marriage was not in my immediate plans. But the thought that he could get sick while uninsured made me reconsider that, even if momentarily.

Clint is living with us, bringing in $214 a week after taxes in unemployment while waiting for the $1,200 check that is a centerpiece of the stimulus plan signed by President Trump last month. He is also hoping to get a call back from one of the dozens of jobs he has applied for, waiting, as we all are, for everyday life to feel normal again.

There are millions of people around the world in the same boat. My brother, who runs two Subway franchises in Brazil shuttered by the pandemic, said that after his employees take a 30-day paid vacation, as mandated by law, he may be left with no option but to let them go.

That night, in my kitchen, my daughter broke out crying. I held her and she said, in a near whisper, “I don’t know what to say to someone who’s lost a job.”

“There’s no one thing to say,” I told her. “Maybe you don’t need to say anything. Just hold him, hold his hand.”

She got up from the breakfast-bar stool that used to be her father’s and walked toward the man who has filled the role of father — the man who has made us whole again. She jumped into his thick, strong arms, wedged her head against his neck and said through tears, “I love you.”

Sometimes, that’s all we need to hear.

Fernanda Santos, a former national correspondent for The Times, teaches journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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