I saw a post on Facebook this month that there were more than 1,000 cars in line for a food drive right here in Santa Fe, or to rephrase, right here in America. Land of opportunity.

I shed tears reading this. Will this be in my near future?

I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for over 25 years and have never had a problem getting a job. I’m really good at what I do.

I bet I’ve waited on many people who are reading this in my 3½ years working at Harry’s Roadhouse. I probably know your names and your favorite entrees. I loved my job. It was chaotic and I often came home with throbbing feet, but I really did love that place.

I was laid off about a week before this recent lockdown was announced. At 25 percent capacity, business was very slow.

My asthma puts me at an increased risk, and my bosses also considered the risk I would pose to the hospice patients I visit if they kept me on. There is no possible way for any restaurant to guarantee an employee’s safety right now, a very hard pill to swallow.

My boss told me I am welcome to come back when things calm down, but I cannot shake the very real fear that the restaurant industry as a whole may never recover from this.

I thought I had a little bit of wiggle room to find another job because, even though I am about to exhaust my unemployment benefits, there was a 13-week extension available.

That is, until I found out this extension expires after Christmas.

It is starting to really hit home how little the federal government cares about the American people right now.

I have lost count of how many jobs I have applied for and not heard back from.

I am trying my hardest to stay positive in these times (although I will admit to a few breakdowns along the way).

There is always the chance this could be the year my photography takes off. Maybe I will be able to book enough photo shoots to make it through these times.

Maybe there will be a nonminimum-wage job opening that is seeking out career-type ex-servers. There are probably thousands of us in this town. I know I am not alone here.

For now, I have been busy trying to figure out creative ways to make money and stay safe while this pandemic surges, and trying to maintain my positive attitude to the best of my ability. Because no matter how scary this is for me, I do know there are many, many people in much worse predicaments than me.

I take note of the tiny blessings I have in my life every single day, and I pray to whoever might be listening for a miracle, or at the very least, a better world.

Jen Stillions until recently was a waitress at Harry’s Roadhouse. She is also a photographer and a hospice volunteer who lives in Santa Fe.

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