“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
John F. Kennedy
Those words from President Kennedy’s inaugural speech ring true now as ever. The whole world is going through incredibly tough times, and all of us need to do our part to help win the fight against CODIV-19.
The recommendation of social isolation to contain the virus got me wondering about how some groups are dealing with this pandemic. What about prisons? Homeless shelters? Addiction treatment facilities? Police departments? All have had to come up with new protocols to protect their people– not an easy undertaking. It also got me thinking about a group of people I identify with: small business owners.
COVID-19 is affecting all of us. From stockpiling food and toilet paper to watching with alarm our 401Ks shrinking to working remotely while the kids are out of school, we're suddenly living very different lives. I worry about those who, on top of these reasons for collective anxiety, are uncertain about the future of their business and their employees.
How concerned must a small business owner be when he has to close his doors to support the social distancing call, yet still has to make payments? What does she tell her employees who depend on their wages to make ends meet? How does he tell a single mother that her only income is about to vanish? It’s heartbreaking.
Several small business owners are hit hard by this pandemic. To gain some perspective, I asked a couple of my friends to describe their experiences. Eneida Adrianza is a Top Seller realtor in the Houston area, and Chef Luis Martinez is the owner of Essentials Kitchen, a Latin fusion restaurant in Katy, TX.
I wanted to know what worries them the most in these times of uncertainty; what’s the situation with their employees; how can we, as neighbors, support them; and what they want their neighbors to know.
Eneida worries about people not taking this pandemic seriously and the potentially high unemployment that will severely hinder her business. Clients are already delaying buying a new house because they don't know whether they'll have a job tomorrow.
Another factor that's impacting her business is sellers not wanting strangers into their houses for fear of contamination. She's a big advocate of drastic social distancing now to “flatten the curve” so we can all go back to our lives sooner rather than later.
On his part, Chef Martinez feels that not knowing who long all of this is going to last is distressing. He doesn’t know what to tell his employees to keep them motivated when they have bills to pay. He's most worried about two of his kitchen assistants because they carry the burden of paying their household bills.
Chef Martinez is well aware that all industries are going through difficult times, but staying united is the most important thing right now. He believes that we should take this opportunity to put things into perspective, slow down, and appreciate our surroundings. He’s grateful for all who have supported his business so far and have given him a pat in the back, reminding him that everything is going to be okay soon.
Eneida wants people around her to take care of themselves by stying home and take care of others.
Chef Martinez's kitchen is open for takeout, and gift cards are a source of needed cash for him right now. He also welcomes words of support! Eneida is asking her clients to be flexible and agree to virtual meetings for everybody's safety.
At one point, our focus will shift from the health crisis to the financial crises, and all hell is going to break loose for many. The economic realities are going to punch us all in the face, no doubt.
Meanwhile, we must support our local businesses as much as possible, even during the social spacing period. Many small business owners’ livelihoods are hanging by a thread. And I agree, right now saving lives is the utmost priority, not maintaining livelihoods. However, if we can do a tiny bit to alleviate their burden now, I believe we must do so.
While the social distancing call is in place, please order books online from your favorite local bookstore, buy takeout or delivery from your favorite local restaurant, donate to local shelters. Support and be grateful for the creative efforts of local businesses to adapt and serve their community the best they can despite the circumstances.
Once this is over, support them even more so they can re-hire their employees and get back to the business of serving their communities as quickly as possible. Be a good human being and remember that we’re all in this together. Wash your hands and stay healthy!