Finding new ways to make ends meet

Matt Kuzawa

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

In a money-starved economy, with minimal jobs for the unemployed, people will do whatever it takes to make ends meet.

Money makes the world go around, but when you’re out of money with no income in the near future, it can be difficult to cope with the realization that you are unsure of how you will afford to eat or where you will sleep.

Panic may set in. Some may call a family member for help, take a less-than-desirable, minimum-wage job, apply for a Bridge card, file for unemployment or visit a local food pantry. It may take a big gulp of pride to admit defeat but there is no shame in any of these steps.

This isn’t your parents’ economy anymore. It’s more similar to the period your grandfolks went through. Students graduating with their bachelor’s degree probably have less of a chance at landing a job than our parents had upon high school graduation in decades past.

One example to demonstrate this recession occurred a few weeks ago at a Grand Rapids City Council meeting. First-ward commissioner Walt Gutowski shared quite a story about his ride into the city on that Monday.

Driving on the dark winter roads, Gutowski pulled up to a stop light. A young man approached his car and said he was a student at Grand Valley State University. He said he was going to be late for class and needed a ride downtown. Gutowski played the Good Samaritan role and told the young man to get in.

Just a few minutes later, Gutowski found himself in a nightmare situation when the hitchhiker demanded Gutowski give him all of his money.

Unruffled, Gutowski put his hand on his cell phone and dialed 911.

He calmly explained to the demanding student that he should rethink his current course of action and showed him the phone with 911 dispatchers on the other end of the line.

The man agreed, as Gutowski pulled to the side of the road and the would-be-robber stepped out of his car.

A potentially deadly situation was diffused because of quick thinking by Gutowski. A lot can be learned from his story.

This situation may be unique and it would be overcautious to assume everyone in need of a ride is a potential criminal. However, it would be safe to say situations such as this may become more common as poverty increases.

People will do anything for money, as evident by our desperate friend. Don’t let this deter you from helping the needy. One can only hope this opened his eyes, and he realized there are other options to make ends meet as mentioned above.

The sticky situation certainly opened my eyes and it became useful a couple of weekends ago.

As I pulled out of the Yesterdog parking lot in East Grand Rapids, a young man frantically ran up to my car.

“Excuse me, I am a Grand Valley student and I ran out of gas …” he said as I cracked my window.

Instantly I remembered Gutowski’s story.

“Do you have a couple of dollars for a gallon or two of gas to get back to campus?” he continued.

I had used my remaining cash on a few Ultradogs, so I was of no use to the young man.

Of course I felt bad for him, especially because I didn’t have any money to give him – no matter what he would have used it for: gas, food, etc.

But because of Gutowski’s shared experience, I could have handled the situation with the best chance for success. Instead of letting it go in one ear and out the other, I stored it as knowledge.

Share your stories, both positive and negative. If your audience is listening, it could save their lives.

[email protected]