By Pauline Kerr
Sometimes you just want to shake someone and shout, “Wake up!”
Take, for example, the people who grumble about every COVID-19 aid package announced by the federal or provincial government. Yes, debt is being incurred that will take years, if not decades, to repay. Yes, there will be important capital projects and worthwhile social programs that will not be funded because of it.
But thanks to that government aid, a neighbour’s business is still open. A close friend has managed to pay her rent. The family down the street has food on the table. And a nephew just got hired by a small, local industry.
We need to wake up and realize those aid packages help ensure the economic infrastructure needed for future growth remains intact. The alternative is a devastating downward spiral of bankruptcies, empty storefronts and decimated towns.
Then there are the people who boast about being able to buy just about anything via their computers from large multinational companies. As they babble on about their newest purchase, the temptation is great to ask them to wake up and use their brains as well as their credit cards.
COVID-19 has made it very easy to forget about how such purchases affect our local economy – the businesses we go to when our favourite service club is raising funds for a project, the shop that employs the local coach of the year, the industry that donated so generously to our hospital.
It is not only shoppers who took to making online purchases like ducks to water. Our hometown retailers adapted to the new technology, too, and offer many products and services via computer. Many continue to provide curbside pickup for those who need or want it, and can make special delivery arrangements – they are our neighbours, after all. Give them a call.
This might be a good time to make a few extra local purchases. Some of us have done quite well during the pandemic. What better way to make the most of our good fortune than by sharing it?
We might donate more money than usual to a great cause, to make up for the major fundraisers that had to be cancelled. We might get together with some friends and plan a new online fundraiser. COVID-19 has not ended the need for medical research, food bank donations and support for a wide range of other projects.
We might buy a bunch of gift certificates from local shops to hand out when it seems appropriate, donate to the food bank or use as stocking-stuffers at Christmas, which is not that far away. Those gift certificates might mean one more storefront with an “open for business” sign in the window.
To understand what that storefront means, you have to live in a community like this one. People around here routinely wear many hats. A business owner might also be a volunteer firefighter, the president of a service club, a Sunday school teacher, a member of a municipal committee, and the parent of our child’s best friend. The business might employ the spouse of a hospital nurse with desperately needed specialized training, the neighbour who is like family, or the parents of our favourite teenaged babysitter.
There is no time like the present to start those home renovations projects that will keep local contractors busy, purchase supplies for a craft we have always wanted to try, or take a virtual tour of local businesses to see what exciting products can be bought locally. We all win when we shop close to home.
The unfortunate part of COVID-19 is that it encourages a survival mentality. We focus on getting by today, or for the next week or two. We need to think bigger.
We all have an important role to play in building the community we want our children and grandchildren to enjoy.
This is small business week in Canada. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local communities. They will continue to be here for us only if we support them.