Clodagh Finn: We can use Covid-19 solidarity to save local business

The idea of paying it forward – in kindness and in cash – can really come into its own now, writes Clodagh Finn
Clodagh Finn: We can use Covid-19 solidarity to save local business

The idea of paying it forward – in kindness and in cash – can really come into its own now, writes Clodagh Finn

IN this strange new world without hugs, without sport, without grandparents and, increasingly, without pay packets, it feels as if we are utterly powerless. But we are not.

There is more than just kindnessbehind the myriad acts of compassion we have witnessed over the last month. There is the germ of an idea that could help to keep us afloat, at least partially, in these days seemingly without seeming end.

In the same way we have reached out to connect with neighbours, relatives, and friends, people have started to ask how they might help the thousands of local businesses who are in danger of losing their livelihoods.

Some of those still lucky enough to have a wage are asking how they might spend at least some of it to help businesses, traders, artisans, and artists to get through this surreal time.

Let’s hope it becomes a widespread movement because, as we have seen with campaigns to tackle climate change, small individual actions can add up to have a significant impact on the wider community.

It doesn’t even have to involve huge amounts of money. If those now working from home used the money saved on lunches or on their daily commute to invest in local businesses, it could make the difference between make or break for some of them.

Even if you added up the amount spent on takeaway coffees and either put that back into your local café, by say, buying vouchers, or used it to buy coffee beans from a local roaster, that could make a big difference too.

The idea of paying it forward — in kindness and in cash — can really come into its own now. To take one small example: If those of us obliged to cancel appointments because of coronavirus restrictions offered to pay them forward now, it could give a range of professionals — from dentists andnutritionists to physiotherapists and hairdressers — reason to hope that they will have a business to return to in the months ahead.

Those who have been able to offer services online have been doing so,and often without charge. It has been humbling to see the yoga teachers, the pilates instructors and the meditationexperts use their skills to help people others keep stress at bay.

Their contributions might be free, but there’s only so long a person can live on kindness alone only for so long. Now is the time to pay for those classes, at least in part, or to buy vouchers for the future.

Investing in a future that is uncertain demands a big leap of faith, but if more of us decide to make that leap, then we are less likely to be lurching towards the unknown. This is the time to help the local businesses that we want to see trading when this crisis is over.

The signs, to date, have been more than encouraging. Local communities have set up websites or Facebook pages to let people know that they are still open for business, even if it is on a much more restricted basis.

One flower farm put out a call for support during the week and werehappily inundated with replies from people who took them up on an offerto deliver bouquets of Easter flowers anywhere nationwide.

Let’s hope Easter will bring a little bit of a spending boom, but I doubt that will be enough to see us through.

Forgive me for mentioning Christmas in April (although there is something of the sluggishness and aimlessness of late December in the Covid-19 experience) but I wonder if we might also bring a bit of the season of goodwill forward this year; the bit that allows us to buy a print from the photographer who hasn’t had a paying gig for five weeks. Or to buy soap from a local producer? Or to send a magazine or newspaper subscription to a friend.

The next time you are in the supermarket or local shop, put a newspaper into your basket. It’s easy to take the printed word for granted, particularly when there is so much available online, but support them now rather than mourn their loss when they are gone.

It is inspiring to see how members of the media have pulled out all the stops to bring you the news, often from makeshift offices in bedrooms or at kitchen tables. Yes, there is a personal bias. Don’t feel that you have to buy a single newspaper, just the ones you’d like to see in print later in the year. It is as stark as that.

The reality of incalculable job losses is stark, but one of the most striking features of this crisis has been watching people use ingenuity and imagination to think of ways to function as normal.

You can, for instance, do a gym class by Skype, or order a tailored home workout programme which will bedelivered to your inbox.

You can order an online skin consultation too, and it’s only a matter of time before hairdressers will be showing us how to cut and colour hair at home, if that’s not happening already.

Anyone who uses a 12-step programme to fight addiction will tell you that Zoom has allowed them to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Gamblers Anonymous all around the world.

The issue is not our ingenuity. We have that in spades. What we need now is to harness the willingness among workers to help those whose work is either in danger or has been temporarily suspended.

We saw how effective a ‘make one change’ campaign was in raising our awareness of the need to take action make changes to help our planet. The irony now is that harmful carbon emissions have been cut beyond our wildest dreams.

Now, let’s use the energy behind that campaign to show that we, as individuals, have the power to at least try to keep our communities in work. Make one change and ‘pay it forward’, if you can at all.

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