The Inspiration Behind Waiting For Change

Ask Dr. McCale

{Week 2}

Welcome to our 2nd week of Ask Dr. McCale!   If you're just joining us for the first time, this is a 6-Week series on the hard realities of unemployment.  Our expert, Dr. McCale, recently published the book Waiting for Change: Impacts on life, family, work, and the new 99% reality. She also knows firsthand the anxiety that goes with being unemployed.

If you missed last week's post Think It Won't Happen To You? be sure to click over and get to know Dr. McCale a little bit better.  As a reminder, Ask Dr. McCale, will be posted every Friday through August 3rd.

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Q:  What inspired you to write the book Waiting for Change?

There were several events or influences that propelled me to write the book.

The inspiration for the book actually started several years earlier while I was still teaching.

During the financial crash, I was watching the news, the reports of layoffs, and the economic crisis unfold, and wondered if this was how the Depression felt to those of that generation.

I remembered stories from my own family from that time as well as the stories I had heard from others. While it was an intriguing notion, no one else was interested in co-writing the article; the idea was put on the back burner and life moved on.

I also was doing a lot of reading and found the idea of a researcher being an intimate part of a study fascinating. I had a more “objective” or statistical perspective on research; so the idea that a researcher’s experience – like Barbara Ehrenreich’s insightful book Nickel and Dimed, or perhaps more famously Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Super Size Me – was a new concept to me – but not a new method for research.

As I became affected by the Great Recession, I started paying more and more attention to the news, seeing the reports of the millions of people who, like me, through no fault of our own, were rocked by the Financial Crisis and the decisions of others.

The problem I had with many of the stories was that none of them seemed to really address what the experience was after the pink slip: it was as if these people just disappeared… that they and what their lives turned out to be didn’t matter.

Certainly that has changed NOW, and there have been some incredible reports about the very personal impacts of the economy:

The Kaiser Family Foundation and NPR have done some great research and profiles about the long term unemployed;  60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley did an amazing few stories about one of the results of long term unemployment  -- homelessness – and what that experience is like for the children of the unemployed.

But at the time – the longer I watched the news, the longer I listened to the partisan bickering, and the longer I reflected on the topic, I knew there was a gap between what the news was reporting, what the politicians were discussing, and what millions of Americans were experiencing.

The last influence, though, was a book interview I saw late one night, again, many years ago. The author was a historian discussing his latest book. Towards the end of the interview, the host asked the author about how ordinary people could be involved in gathering or contributing to history: go through attics? Donate items? Etc.

The historian took the question in a different direction though, discussing how history documents the famous people – politicians, leaders, heroes, etc – quite well because we have their public papers.

However, we often don’t have what the average person’s life was like at that time. So in his opinion, some of the greatest “historical finds” were things that most people might not think as important: their ancestor’s diaries. What life was like? How they felt about current events? What their daily lives were like? Their values, decision making, etc.?

So the decision to at least TRY to write the book came from a sort of triangulation from these core influences.

The final decision to write the book, came immediately on the heels of going to the Food Bank for the very first time.  I mentally took notes about the experience and was struck by so many mini-encounters throughout  the experience:

  • The young blonde mother of two who not only was there for food but also was dealing with a dietary restriction of gluten intolerance.
  • The elderly African American man, too weary to stand anymore in line, and seeming to be so used to being ignored that he hardly recognized it when someone spoke to him.
  • The volunteers who, with their smiles and kindness, make the experience palatable each and every day for thousands of people – with little to no recognition or appreciation.

I discussed the notion rumbling around in my head and spoke with my writing and research partner. We discussed the approach and what could or should be included, and if what I was seeing and experiencing really a “story” worth reporting or documenting. He encouraged me to give it a try: write one “story.” Maybe it would be a book; or maybe it would be a feature article freelanced to a magazine or feature website.

When I had finished, what has become known as the “Food Bank chapter” my partner read it, reviewed it, of course made edits, but told me to do the same – with other experiences; that I was on to something, and yes, to keep writing.

All told, from the visit to the food bank to the last day of writing, it took about 100 days to write.

Waiting for Change is available for sale via paperback and Kindle formats.


How has this dark recession impacted you and your family?  We'd love for you to share in the comments below.

Join us back here again next Friday for Week 3:  Humiliation - Food Stamps and a Trip to the Food Bank



Get your copy of UnEMPLOYED Faith today for only $4.99.

In the book, I share the raw details of my story, while also offering 10 different tried and true coping tips for enduring your season of unemployment with strength and perseverance.

Also available for FREE download is this helpful resource:  Praying Him Through Unemployment:  6 Week Prayer Guide.