I am not the first to say it, and for this I am very glad, but it appears there is a community spreading occurring in our little town as well as those surrounding it.
It’s not the stealthy approach of a virus of which I speak, but the “first responders” of kindness. Even before a declaration of National Emergency was made in response to the rapid increase in cases of COVID-19, there were murmurings between friends and then, as is the normal progression, upon local pages of social media:
“How can we help our local businesses survive this time of social distancing, as recommended by the CDC and coronavirus point man, Dr. Fauci?”
For sure, many of our local restaurants, immediately recognizing the potential economic fallout, have offered both take out and delivery services and that’s smart thinking, indeed. It’s also important to remember that we are a service-based economy in this country, and while restaurants and bars are taking a very hard hit, there are countless other businesses suffering as well. Think of all the places one would normally visit unless being told that staying home is recommended: going to your hairstylist or barber, dropping off dry cleaning, going to the hardware store or your local cinema to see a long-anticipated movie with your family.
For those of us in small-town America, our local businesses are our actual neighbors. They’re not national chains, they’re the couple that moved into town that not only completely renovated a historic building that had sat idle for years, but brought back to life our local, 82-year-old cherished cinema, giving an enormous boost to the rest of the local businesses. It’s our local gifts and clothes shops, our favorite eateries, B and B’s, and our arts center where I’ve not only had the privilege to perform, but have seen several concerts.
While we protect our own health, as well as those with which we come into contact, we can still support our neighborhood businesses as we always have. By all means, yes, order take-out or delivery if you’re craving that pizza or Greek Salad (or the coconut cake I’m jonesin’ for), or that particularly nice bottle of Pinot Noir you were waiting to be restocked. Can’t go to the movies for the next eight Sunday matinees that you normally attend? Gift certificates for precisely that amount can be purchased in your own name (and perhaps a couple of friends, if you’re feeling particularly generous) for when doors open again. Most salons and gift shops are happy to oblige in the same manner as well. Even one of our tack shops offers on-line shopping should the horsey community need a new pair of riding gloves or bridle.
Even when I lived in Los Angeles, a city and county of millions of residents, I knew my local shopkeepers by name. Places of business in larger towns and cities are in just as great a danger as those in small towns. In fact, because the population is so much larger and “community infection” rates are far more likely, those businesses we rely on, while perhaps not our personal neighbors, may not survive. While national chains can take more of a hit, that doesn’t mean they won’t have to lay off staff, so gift certificates purchased can be very helpful to continue to support that local wine bar you and your co-workers have normally visited after work on Friday evenings, or the bowling alley or the Starbuck’s you depend upon come Monday morning.
And within the business aspect of all this are the gestures we often see in times of crisis: friends offering to do the grocery shopping for those at risk, people stepping up to volunteer for the increased numbers of those appearing on the rosters of Mobile Meals, assisting with making lunches for children remaining home from closed schools. Gift cards for our first responders: our community doctors, nurses, EMTs, who are putting their very health on the line as they deal with the potential surge of patients is a nice touch as well.
Community infection really is a frightening word. Community kindness is a most soothing balm.