by Shannon Williams

“I don’t know what I am going to do. The government shutdown makes it tough for people like me who try to make an honest living.”

The above statement is from a gentleman who called the (Indianapolis) Recorder office last week. I have never met the man, nor do I know his real name. “I just wanted to talk with you,” he told me. “You seem to understand what people go through in their lives so I just wanted to unload.”

The gentleman did not want to be interviewed by my newsroom staff, nor did he want to tell me his real name. He just wanted to talk. And he needed someone to listen.

That’s exactly what I did. I listened to him for close to 20 minutes only interrupting to offer supportive statements such as “I understand the pressure you’re under,” or “Even though these are obviously uncertain and scary times, stay optimistic and continue to have faith that God will supply all your needs.”

The mystery man on the phone told me how he became a father at an early age. Determined not to be absent from his son’s life like his own father was, this man attended classes at Ivy Tech and worked a few odd jobs at a time to help provide for his son. Eventually he met a woman, fell in love, married and now he has two additional children who are both under 4 years old. He felt like he caught a break a few years ago when he took a government job at the federal building downtown. The pay wasn’t going to make him wealthy, but it was stable work and offered him an opportunity to provide for his family. Because child care is so expensive, he and his wife decided she would not work until both kids were in school.

“It’s not like I make so much money where she can afford not to work, it’s just that day care costs so much that everything she brought in would go right back out to our kids’ day care. Believe me, she’s not like one of those rich housewives you see on TV.”

The alternative he and his wife chose was the best option for them. Things haven’t been easy, but at least his salary covers the bills and puts food on the table. The challenging thing is, however, his salary is just enough—there isn’t any wiggle room for much of anything—no savings, no expensive steaks for dinner and certainly no furloughs.

If I wrote a movie I could not come up with a more compelling script than this man’s real life situation.

The government shutdown can drastically alter the life of this man and his family. He, his wife and their children are literally in danger of falling behind on bills and not having food on the table.

That’s the reason he called me. He didn’t want to worry his wife any more than she already is and he is so stressed that he hasn’t been able to sleep since early Monday evening before his wife awakened him to inform him about the shutdown.

I could hear the fatigue, despair, uncertainty and even fear in his voice. He needed an outlet and I was blessed to have the opportunity to provide a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on … even without knowing this man’s real identity.

As dramatic as his story sounds, it is not uncommon. Thousands of Indiana families and people around the country are on high alert because they don’t know how long these charades that Congress is playing will last. The shutdown is real and it has real effects on people’s lives. Members of the House are playing Russian roulette with the lives of the very people who helped get them in office and their disregard is audacious, insensitive and just plan sickening. What is even more ludicrous is that while 800,000 federal workers don’t get paid during this shutdown, all 533 members of Congress do!

Perhaps congressional members need to act as if this is election time and go before their constituents. Maybe then they will see the despair their actions are causing. The sad thing is, even if Congress did encounter people like the man I spoke with on the phone, they probably wouldn’t care. They probably would not even feel compelled to do the right thing.

Politics can be an ugly game and unfortunately, many politicians abuse their power and disregard the plight of the people.

At press time, the shutdown was still in full effect with no potential end on the table. I encourage you to call federal officials of both political parties, email them, or use social media as a platform to let your frustrations and disappointments be heard. The great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said a man who does not stand for something will fall for anything. This is evident with many members of Congress. Don’t let it be the case for you.

You can email comments to Shannon Williams at

(Reprinted from the Indianapolis Recorder)


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