We’ve all seen that Mr. Rogers quote floating around social media, made pretty and put into its best pinterest form… and while I am trying to hold onto my optimism and indeed look for the helpers, I’m also hyper aware that EVERYTHING IS SO MUCH RIGHT NOW. It seems like almost everyone I know is either laid off, or attempting to work from home while also home-schooling, navigating the myriad of information out there about small business loans and payroll solutions, and somehow figuring out how to pivot and keep their brick and mortor businesses viable at this time (all while trying to keep their shit together.)
Personally, I’m living in a place of “Survivors-Guilt.” I’ve worked for small, family owned businesses and non-profits my entire adult life, and I feel incredibly blessed to currently have the luxury of working at home, but my heart, my anxiety and all my big feels are out there with the small business owners, the restaurants, servers, shop clerks, hair dressers, bar tenders, self-employed creatives, and all the others in our community and around the world who are finding themselves in crisis mode right now. And like many others out there, I’m trying to navigate the best way to help.
What I have determined is that this is going to look different for everyone, but as we are all figuring out this scenario together, I wanted to share some ideas I’ve come up with of how you might be able to offer support to your community.
The biggest, and most obvious is to shop locally. This is not new information, but it IS more important than ever before. I was chatting with a friend last week who casually mentioned that she didn’t think changing her spending habits now was going to have that big of an impact on local businesses… and let me tell you, as someone who has spent their entire adult life working in small, independent businesses, spending what you can now IS going to help. I’m not saying we should all be spending beyond our means right now trying and keep our local favorites afloat, but I am saying that the small purchases may seem insignificant to you, but they DO add up. Not only that, but it’s good for morale. Most of the shop and restaurant owners that I know are yes, running businesses, but they are also so connected to the community. They do this for their customers, for the relationships they have built, they have created gathering places in the community, and the are the people who show up. Even if you are just buying a $5 greeting card… I promise, it makes a difference, not only to the bottom line, but to the shop owner’s mental health. The Business owners need us to show up (and stay at least 6 ft away.)
I also understand that in this time of uncertainty, spending on non-essential items might feel a little reckless. And with so many of us working at home, and not having to put on “real clothes” buying a new pair of pants feels a little pointless right now (especially if you are like me, and living on comfort carbs…anything I buy right now, realistically might not fit me by the time this is over, and I have come to terms with that… I suggest you do as well.) But take a moment to think about how much you might spend on eating out in a month, and buy a gift certificate, or make sure to visit a restaurant that is open for delivery or take out. (and for the love of God, tip more than you would ever have thought appropriate before. Help the restaurants stay viable, help them support their staff, and let them know you appreciate them being at work. )
Your purchases don’t have to be big, but as you are getting your essentials this month, consider trying to get them from a locally owned business. Here are a few of the things I’m opting to spend my money on this month
Dog Food, purchased from a small, family owned, local company.
Greeting Cards. April is National Letter Writing Month! If you have an extra $25, call your local bookshop, or boutique and ask them to put together a pack of their favorite greeting cards. (I promise you, the shop owners have some favorites.) This one is a double feel good, because you are supporting local, and also sending out notes… trust me, people love mail, and everyone could use a reminder that you are thinking about them.
Local Beer & Wine. This is maybe the kindest thing you can do for your community right now. With so many restaurants closing, this means that our local wineries and breweries (and also our local farmers) have lost a lot of their distribution. I repeat purchasing local beer & wine is maybe the kindest thing you can do for your community right now, and for yourself.
Support Local Farmers. Again, with so many restaurants closing, our small local farmers are losing a lot of their weekly deliveries. Many are opening up weekly shares, and doing their best to keep the community supplied with fresh, locally grown food. By supporting local farmers you A) reduce the amount of people who are touching your food before it gets to you, and B) putting more money back into the local economy. Our local farmers live here and shop here, and the more we are able to support them, the more they will be able to grow. It feels redundant to have to say this, but I’m going to say it anyway, SUPPORT THE PEOPLE WHO GROW YOUR FOOD. Farming is hard. It is not for the faint of heart, it is not glamorous, and it isn’t overly lucrative. The people I know who are farmers do so out of love for the land, love for the community. Support these humans. We need them.
Along these same lines, support your local Farmers Market. It’s no secret that I have major heart eyes for Farmers Markets, but let me get on my market soap box here and tell you why you should too. Farmers Markets are considered essential businesses during the Pandemic because they offer access fresh, locally grown food. Most Farmers Markets accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits or SNAP, and some markets (including the McMinnville Farmers Market) have a SNAP matching program, meaning that more locally grown produce is available to the families and population that need it the most. With a surge in unemployment right now, I believe communities will be seeing more families utilizing the matching program at farmers markets. This means A) people have access to more produce, and B) Farmers are getting more money. (are you feeling all the warm fuzzies yet?!?!) But here is the thing…. Our local farmers market needs sponsors to help cover the market overhead. Farmers Markets don’t just happen. There are MONTHS of planning that go into them. There is paperwork, street closure permits, insurance, marketing, processing vendor applications, navigating how to handle the SNAP benefits, staffing, advertising, porta potties and hand washing stations rentals, infrastructure supplies, communication with the public and the vendors….Add to that this year that Markets are now having to navigate social distancing guidelines for shoppers, additional hand washing stations, additional staff and volunteers to help regulate how many people are shopping at one time/ social distancing appropriately, as well as coming up with new guidelines for vendors, having to navigate expanding the footprint of the market to facilitate social distancing etc. All of this takes resources. If you have extra to give right now, please consider donating to a Farmers Market, or other organization that addresses the issue of food equality. Currently the McMinnville Farmers Market has a $150 Market Patron sponsorship option. A contribution at this level will get you includes a $20 market gift certificate, a Farmers Market tote and a farmers market tee shirt. The McMinnville Downtown Farmers Market is scheduled to run for 23 weeks this season… so for roughly $6.52 a week you could help support the market in a huge way.
Here are a few things that you can do to help support your community that cost ZERO dollars, and will make a difference in someone’s life.
- Donate blood: Numerous blood drives have been cancelled across the country due to the locations no longer being open during the Stay at Home order. Blood donations have slowed way down, but the need for blood is higher than ever. Contact the Red Cross and find a location.
- Say Thank you. Especially to the clerks at the grocery store, any healthcare workers you know, the people at restaurants making your take-out. Say it often, and say it authentically. Let people know that you see them and appreciate what they are doing.
- Reach out to a small business owner. Maybe you have a phone number you can text, or perhaps you are just sending a message over social media… however you reach out, just let them know you are thinking about them.
- Post uplifting or humorous content on social media. As someone who spends a lot of time on social media for my job, MEMES are giving me life right now.
- Like and Share Content. While you are sharing this content, go to at least 5 small business people you follow who are self-employed and like their content. Share it in your stories, make a comment. Businesses need more visibility right now. If you are scrolling online, designate 10 minutes of your day to intentionally liking, sharing, and commenting on posts. It absolutely helps these businesses and individuals.
- Check in with your humans. It can be a quick text, phone call, video chat… everyone is handling this situation differently, and there is a lot of anxiety in the world. I’m not saying that you need to take on the anxiety or stress of the ones that you love, but they do need to know that you are thinking about them. (Even us introverts… we are mostly doing ok, but check on us too…)
AND finally, here are a few things that you can do that will ABSOLUTELY make a difference in your life right now.
- Go outside for at least 5 minutes every day. You might just stand outside your front door, you might do this with a glass of wine in your hand, and you can absolutely do this in your pajamas, but breathe some fresh air.
- Take it one day at a time.
- Meditate: start with 1 minute focusing on your breath… It doesn’t have to be an epic life altering meditation, just be still, breathe, let go….
- Move. Your. Person. –I’m struggling with this one… but I’m so thankful to all of the beautiful humans who are offering online yoga/ fitness/ meditation classes right now. Find a local person you can support, find a youtube video, walk around your driveway, bribe yourself in weird ways…. (I’m can only listen to the news if I’m working OR doing squats/ lunges… Lets be real…. Sometimes this means I’m not listening to the news, but that is also a benefit to my mental health… so…)
- Do something creative: You do not have to be an artist or a crafter or a creative being. Make a doodle, needlepoint something, put stickers in your planner, make a nature mandala in your yard with whatever sticks/ leaves/ petals/ moss you can find. Try a new recipe! (cooking is creative you guys! ) Pull a spice or ingredient you don’t typically use out of the pantry and research a dish you can make. Write a haiku. Paint your fingernails. Take an arty photo of a houseplant, and edit it in lightroom. Creativity doesn’t fit into a box… there are endless ways to be creative, you just need to find one. Don’t over-think it.
- Reach Out: Its also OKAY to reach out when you need some support. It’s okay to say “This sucks, and I’m not doing okay right now” If you are reading this and you feel like you don’t have anyone in your circle that you can say this sort of stuff to, reach out to me! I am a great listener.
- Have Grace with yourself and others. We are ALL going through this. We ALL have good days and bad days (and it is sometimes its moment to moment). You don’t need to be dazzlingly productive or efficient right now, we all just need to be honest. Its okay if you are moving slowly today, its okay if you are emotional, scared, irritated, confused… its also okay to be happy. Its okay to find small joys in the every day. It’s okay to be thankful. I struggle with this sometimes (back to my survivors guilt…) But here is the TRUTH: When I look outside and see a flower blooming and it brings a brief moment of joy, that moment doesn’t take away someone else’s joy. It also doesn’t make their suffering or angst any worse. BUT it does fill my cup just a tiny bit, so somewhere down the line when someone reaches out who is in crisis or not doing well it means that I have a little bit more emotional depth to give. It is okay to feel all your feelings. Its also okay to eat your feelings… yup, that is right, I just gave you permission. And it is DEFINETELY okay not to judge yourself for eating your feelings. This is new for most of us… Its okay if you are not okay, and it’s okay to feel okay. Also some people who are not okay might be taking it out externally… thus, the grace with yourself AND others. Especially right now.
To Sum up…. Support the things that fill you up and that speak to you (for me its small business & Farmers Markets…) give yourself permission to feel all your feelings, help when and where you can, and for all that is sacred in this world, stay home as much as humanly possible and please keep washing your hands.
Tayler is the Communications Coordinator for McMinnville Economic Development Partnership. She is also a Yoga Teacher, a former Farmers Market Manager, and forever a community enthusiast. She is an introvert, so overall she is doing okay right now, but she is definitely having more in-depth conversations with her bulldog, and not entirely convinced he is happy to have her working from home.