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On Being Laid Off and the End of a Family Business

By Z. S. Roe

*As appeared in the Cambridge Times

Everything happens for a reason.

This is what the twelve of us were told when we were laid off.  Our company, a small shop in Galt, had finally run out of money and would be closing.  Worse yet, we were going to lose our last two weeks of pay and any outstanding vacation pay we were owed.  For the past several years our company had been the little engine that could, remaining open despite continued financial woes and gradual business breakdown.  Unfortunately, the day came when we just couldn’t do it anymore – not only were we out of money, but we were also out of time and out of luck.

Apparently, though, everything happens for a reason.

What makes this closing especially disappointing is not solely the loss of the business, but also the loss of our history.  Established in the mid-fifties, our company was a part of the Cambridge community long before Cambridge even existed.  The workmanship of its many employees can be seen all throughout the city, from the towers of its old stone churches to the storefronts of recently built commercial plazas.  Indeed, you would be hard pressed to walk anywhere in the city and not see a home or building that hasn’t in some way benefited from our handiwork.

A shot of my work station where I worked for over eleven years

A shot of my work station where I worked for over eleven years (Nov. 2001 – Apr. 2013)

This isn’t bragging; on the contrary, this is a kind of grieving.  After all, the history we’ve left behind is all that’s left of us.  Other companies will soon fill the void left in our closing, and I suppose that that is as it should be – a future without change and diversity is a dull and regressive one.  Still, I can’t deny a feeling of loss and regret.

I’m not alone, of course.  Being laid off is almost a rite of passage, as most people experience it at one time or another in their life.  And our company is certainly not the first multi-generational business to go under in the Cambridge community.  Ours is simply one of the more recent.

Out of respect for our former employers who are still going through the closing process, I’ve chosen not to refer to our company by name.  No doubt, laying off all of your employees, many of whom have worked for you for over a decade, is a difficult task; so too is having to inform your customers and suppliers that you will no longer be doing business.  I can appreciate the burden this must have been for them.  That’s not to say that I don’t wish they’d made different business decisions, because of course I do.  Then again, maybe some things just aren’t meant to last.

This, in turn, brings us back to the central question:  Does everything happen for a reason?  I’m not sure if I believe that it does.  Even so, everything that happens can be given meaning, and from meaning we gain understanding and perspective.  From here, if we’ve been paying attention, we can learn from our mistakes, and in learning move forward.

Opinion is a weekly(ish) column of just that, my opinion. While opinions are like noses and everyone has one, mine are especially snotty. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.


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