An advertising copywriter faces homelessness after losing his job
Call it a trifecta.
In the same week I was let go from my job as a copywriter in New York, my wife, Nicole, and I learned we were being evicted from our apartment building, and we found out that Nicole was pregnant. No income. No place to live. We had one kid and one on the way. It was like being asleep and then suddenly waking up to find that I’m driving straight toward a cliff.
But truthfully, I wasn’t too worried. I had a good resume and portfolio. I had written high profile ads for blue chip accounts and New York City seemed to offer another agency on every street corner. I saw no reason I wouldn’t be back on the job in no time. Besides, I knew God would provide.
“Any bites?” Nicole asked me about a month after the search began.
“Not yet,” I replied. “I think January is usually a wash because a lot of people are just getting back from the holidays.” Seems logical to me, I thought. But by the end of March, three months after I was laid off, I still didn’t have so much as an interview.
The day that our apartment building would be converted into condos was fast approaching—and our efforts to secure another apartment in the city fell short as we had no income to show on the application. My wife’s growing belly added more daily pressure. We would pass each other in the house and exchange a smile. Hers seemed to say, Any day now, I just know it. Behind my smile, was, I’m trying. I give you my word.
The days and weeks passed and weekly “check-ins” to my headhunters turned into daily calls. Our savings account dropped to numbers we hadn’t seen since we first got married. We stopped buying all non-essentials to make sure our son had enough food, Nicole was getting the proper nutrition, and I had enough to get around on the subways. But that was about it.
These were our options: if we stayed in New York, we would be homeless with two kids. But if we moved back to Southern California to live with my dad, we would have no doctor for Nicole, no money, no vehicle, no job, no prospects for a job, and the awful plight of having to face the reality that at nearly 40-years-old, I still needed daddy.
“Do you have any sense of what we should do?” I would ask Nicole at least once a day.
“No,” she would always say.
“Keep praying,” I’d add. I knew she was praying like crazy, but I just had to say it.
The fifth month of my search came and went and still there was nothing for me—not even an interview. I couldn’t understand it. Why had God turned so silent? Why no favor upon my efforts? Why no direction in our time of need?
Why had God turned so silent? Why no favor upon my efforts? Why no direction in our time of need?
Six months passed by. Nothing. The letters from the building’s management kept arriving to instruct us about our upcoming eviction. Our Bible study group came over to our house to pray and fast with us. As both of us reviewed our options, the weight of each was more than we could bear.
That night was another sleepless battle for sanity. “You are so silent, God. What is going on? Please lead us in one way or another, we are begging you.”
That morning, I got up early, walked out to the living room and kneeled down. “I have to hear from you by Friday, Lord. The doctor won’t let Nicole fly after Friday.” When I finished praying, I opened my eyes and listened for God’s voice. Then I searched the room for a sign. I looked out the window at the trees. The silence was tormenting. I pictured God, large and looming, simply standing and silently watching me.
Friday came and went. God said and did nothing. I stopped traveling downtown. There were no more agencies to hit up. My headhunters stopped taking my calls. Each time Nicole and I looked at each other, we shared wordless disbelief that it had come to this. It had now been seven months. I saw Nicole in the kitchen. “It’s time, babe.” I said. “Meet me in the living room.”
A few minutes later, Nicole came over and sat on the couch across from me. “Do you have any sense of which way we should go?”
She shook her head.
We stared into each other’s eyes, both of us in shock over our predicament. Being homeless was not an option. Living with friends was not an option. Going home completely empty-handed to stay with my dad and living off his limited income was not an option.
“I think you’re just going to have to make the call,” she said. I said nothing, lost in my dilemma. “Dave, you’ve got to make the call.”
I closed my eyes and bowed my head. “Lord, please help us.” I lifted my head and spoke with an expressionless face. “I think we should move back to California.”
“OK.” Nicole said, in a what’s-done-is-done tone.
“That’s it?” I asked her. “You have nothing else to say?”
“What else do we have? At least it’s a decision.” She got up, lifted our son and began to put him in the stroller. “I’m going to get some milk.”
“Okay,” I said. I walked with her to the door and we said nothing. She went left. I went right.
I walked to our nearby park and prayed that God would protect us and perhaps start talking to us again. We needed Him now more than ever. It was hard to imagine that He would be kind enough to answer a prayer made by someone who was quietly angry with Him. All I needed was a job, I thought. How hard could that have been?
We needed Him now more than ever. It was hard to imagine that He would be kind enough to answer a prayer made by someone who was quietly angry with Him.
Returning home, I put my key in the lock and opened the door, and as I did, something caught my eye. The red light of our message machine was blinking.
I pointed at it. “That’s my answer!” I shouted. I quickly walked to it and just stared at the blinking red light.
Beep. “Hi, Dave, this is Kim Howard, the recruiter at Grey Advertising. Creative director, Mike Silver, is offering you a short freelance job. It’s only two-weeks, but it could turn into full time. So…give a call.”
When Nicole began to open our front door, I nearly attacked her. “You gotta hear this!”
I pushed play. A smile came over her face. Then we began jumping together. We fell into a crash-hug that also included a few tears. “Thank God!” Nicole’s voice filled the room. “Looks like God is saying, I just wanted you to step out in faith!”
“Right?” I said. “So what do we do?” She looked at me like I just asked the dumbest question in history—which I had.
“We build a life on two weeks of freelance,” she said. “Just make sure you get that job.”
Check back to read Part II next week.