DadsStory: Single Dad Looking For A New American Dream

by Gene Reeves for

This is a true story about the love of a single dad and how the current economic crisis has affected just one family in America. There are many families out there facing similar problems.

Some of those are also struggling with more pressing issues than this family. And some others have just given up and turned to welfare to sustain them. Some have turned to crime. Some are still trying to make it without depending on the Government, they still believe that America became great because we, as a Nation, worked to achieve greatness. Sam (all names have been changed), believes in his heart that he should be the master of his destiny. He believes that he should be working and providing for himself and his family, Since he was in his teens, Sam had always had a job. Now, for the past year, he has been looking for a way to support his family. Sam is a single parent.


The decline began in the summer of 2008, with the implosion of the housing market. You see, Sam was employed as a contract driver delivering building supplies. He had no worries about being contract labor. Sure, there were no benefits. But the money was good enough that he could provide for his family. His house was simple, but paid for. The car was old, but paid for. True, there was not much left over after the bills were paid. And it was a simple life. But Sam was getting by.

When, the housing market collapsed, there were no new houses being built, and very little remodeling. Sam’s hours began dropping. Instead of working 50 hours a week, the hours dropped to 40 – then to 30 – then to 20. Then came the call “We are not going to need you this coming week, but we should be back to normal in a week or two.” Sam had faith in his boss. You see, Sam is a good man in the old fashion sense of the word, he believed in the good of others. Even when there is evidence to the contrary, Sam believed all people could be trusted. At least, that is the way he used to be.

As the weeks went by, calls to the boss went the same way. “We should need you next week!” But next week never came. However, the bills did come. Sam did the best thing he knew how to do while he waited for business to pick up – he did odd jobs. He did a few brake jobs, built a deck here and there. Sam did any odd job that he could find to keep some money coming in. He also began pawning what few valuables he had.

When there is no money to pay bills, those who are used to providing for themselves begin to feel inadequate. Depression sets in. Sam could see others around him, those who have given up and allowed the Government to take care of them, able to buy food, receivinging medical care for their families (with Tenncare – Tennessee’s version of Medicare). They even had money left over for beer and cigarettes. Sam didn’t think it was right, but that was the way the system worked. His depression deepened.

Then he heard through the grapevine that the boss just filed bankruptcy and the trucks had been repossessed. There was no job to return to. A frantic search for a new job revealed that there were no jobs to be had. While he was waiting on that phone call from his boss, half of the factories in the area were closing down. The other half were down from three to one shift per day. People used to making $26 per hour were scrambling to get that minimum wage fry cook job at McDonalds. Business were now lowering wages because there was a glut of unemployed people desperate to take any job.

Making it worse, the boss had left the area, so Sam had no references. In fact, the last several businesses he had worked for had closed down. No one answered the phone, letters asking for references were returned. Even in good times, it is hard to find a job without references. But, what happens when companies close their doors. Obtaining references from businesses that are no longer existent can be impossible.  

The only job that he could find was returning to the over-the-road trucking position he held several years ago. He had left that job, in part, because it was not good for his family for him to be gone from home so much. And when a local job that would support his family came up, Sam took that opportunity because it was best for his son. Sam was well qualified for an over the road job. However, now he was a single parent. There was no way he would give up his son. He would find work some way. There just had to be some job out there.

So, Sam continued trying to find work, submitting applications and resumes. There was always the same reply: “We will call you in a few days.” So, he had to keep a phone working for the call that never came. It was all he could do for the odd jobs he could find to keep minutes on his cell phone and a few dollars of gas in his car to respond to leads on potential jobs. Odd jobs became even more scarce. People still needed work done, but couldn’t afford to pay. Odd jobs, what few he could find, paid less and less.

It broke his heart to do so, but Sam eventually had to resort to food stamps. To feed your child, you will do anything. Thieves had broken into the home and stole everything that could be pawned. “It’s just for a while, until I can find work.” He also had to turn to Tenncare to supply health care for his son, Joe. But, the constant reports of Tenncare planning to trim its rolls, eliminating the health care of people who really needed. In the past, Tenncare trimmed the rolls by a large percentage because of the tremendous drain on the taxpayers of Tennessee. Sam didn’t want to take these actions, but to care and provide for your child, we often do things we would not otherwise do.

Now, with employers checking a prospect’s credit report as a part of the screening process for employment, and having not worked for a year, problems did arise. Utilities were paid, but sometimes paid late. Auto insurance had been dropped. The land line had to be cut off. There were several problems on his credit report. But with a job, he could take care of everything. IF he could find a job.

But, there were no jobs.

Now, with winter approaching, fewer odd jobs and higher utility bills, Sam is facing the possibility of returning to his old occupation of on the road-truck-driver, and losing his son. There is no family in the area to care for Joe. Sam did try to get a girlfriend to watch the house and Joe so he could work. That was a disaster. Just before he was to leave for a trucking job, the girlfriend woke up in the middle of the night, stole Sam’s car, went out with friends, got drunk, got stopped by the police on her way home, his car was impounded. Sam chose to call the trucking company and turn down the job. His son was more important.

There were a few “job offers” to do less than honorable work. But, Sam will not do anything remotely illegal or immoral or that will put the life of his son in danger. This would send the wrong message to his son. Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.

Through it all, there is no doubt that Sam loves Joe. They sit in the dark, to conserve electricity, and tell jokes. They spend time together, quality time, doing nothing – because nothing is all they can afford to do. In a way, these financial hardships have been good for Sam. He has learned much about life, the important things about life, as a result of having to do without. However, these times have also been hard. To not know if you can afford food next month. Fearing the mail each day because of the possibility of the notification that Joe was losing his Tenncare benefits. Fear that this recession will continue, and Sam will never get back to work. 

Far too often we read about parents who neglect their children. Children are left to fend for themselves while the parent parties. Or even the parent who simply works and leaves small children alone during the day to fend for themselves. We hear about teenagers left to their own devices while the parent is gone. And, far too often we read the result of these lapses in judgment.

The latest news is that little 7 year-old-girl that was walking a mile from home from school, went missing and is found in a garbage dump the next day. We read more and more about similar cases. And leaving teenagers day after day without supervision is just as bad. Problems arise from alcohol, drugs and teen pregnancy. One of the failures of America is not caring for our kids, not seeing that they are properly educated, not seeing that they are safe. Sam could have taken the easy way out. Sam could have dumped Joe on some friends and headed out on his own. But, he couldn’t live with that. Sam takes his role as a parent seriously. But he knows he could do better, IF he could find a job.

There are those who are wasteful, who scam and who drain the system. Then there are real Americans like Sam who believe that hard work, from every citizen, is what made America great. Sam would love to go to work and resume chasing the American Dream, if only he could find a job. Sam continues to search, often putting in more hours per week looking for a job than many people work.

Sam could never take the easy way out. He could never dump Joe and head out on his own, this happens far too much these days. Sam could never fake mental illness in order to collect more in Government benefits. This also happens far too much these days. But, Sam believes in America. And Sam believes in himself. He knows that he will survive. And, he knows that, with proper guidance, Joe will learn something from this.

To Sam, all that matters is to raise his son, the best he can, with what he has available. IF he could only find a job.

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