Like every other American, I have heard the word recession too many times in the past two years. I've seen it featured in every news report, spotlighted in every newspaper, and witnessed its effects in everyday life. It seems that each week, someone I know loses his job or is dangerously close to losing her home. It used to be that every time I heard someone's sad story, in the back of my head I said a silent prayer, thanking God it hadn't happened to my family. But several weeks ago, it did -- when my father lost his job.
For the past decade, my middle-aged dad worked six days a week at a local auto repair shop, which was usually full of customers. During the last 24 months the flow of customers began to dwindle as, for many, the cost of tune ups became too great. The store's management didn't give my father any warning -- they simply told him he was too expensive to keep as an employee. Just like that, he was tossed into the street. That day was the first time in my life that I'd seen my parents truly upset, and completely uncertain about their future.
After the waves of anger and disbelief began to subside, I realized the severity of our situation. Now that both of my parents are unemployed, there is absolutely no money coming into the house. Aside from a two week severance pay, my father was left with nothing. And like most Americans, we had already used our savings to cover other costs over the years. On television, some news reports are saying that the economy is getting better, but right now that's hard to believe. We've been cutting costs as much as possible, and even talking about moving into a smaller house. It terrifies me that the effects of the recession are no longer just on my TV screen. They're staring at me from across the kitchen table, and even staring back at me in the mirror when I wake up every morning.
My parents are now looking for government assistance, and scrambling to find insurance coverage for my mother, who suffers from severe cardiac and neurological ailments. From the first minute my dad broke the news, I knew I wanted to help; but how? As a full-time student who also works part-time, I can't really offer them a lot of money. But luckily, I have been able to support myself by volunteering extra shifts at work and picking up freelance jobs. The one thing my parents keep emphasizing is how important it is for me to finish my education, so that I'll never be in their position.
Whenever I do go home, the best way I can help my parents through this time is by keeping their spirits up. In order to get my dad back into the job force, I taught him basic computer skills, and helped him create a professional resume. Every day he goes through the classifieds and sends out emails for hours. He never dreamed he'd be in this situation, and right now his future is questionable.
In spite of the misery and heartache caused by the recession, I have found one benefit. People have become more compassionate towards each other, and donation drives have been more successful than I've ever seen. I think that the American people have come to realize that at any moment life as we know it can come crumbling down, and that it could be us on the receiving side of the donation bin. Before the start of this school year, I donated old clothes to a thrift store for the first time. The generosity of strangers has allowed this store, the same one I recently began shopping at, to continue to function. Hopefully the recession will come to an end soon. God willing, my father and the million other Americans who have been affected will be able to return to work, and to sleep peacefully at night once again. Most importantly, let's hope that kindness and compassion are the only permanent remnants of this economic crisis.
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