Economic downturns can be devastating. The current situation with COVID-19 certainly is. The recent earthquake and aftershocks in Utah didn’t ease the anxiety levels any.
The devastation was flung in my face today, too. I’m the chair of the Corporate Counsel Section of the Utah State Bar. Today we reached out to our members (about 800 total) with a message of consolation and hope. Our intent was to create an opportunity to come together, virtually, for discussion an collaboration, because our annual spring event has been postponed and will likely be canceled.
I was deeply moved by the quick and stark reaction by one of our members. She responded, ” I know you are trying to help – but NO ONE is doing well. Neither personally nor in business. Small businesses are closing everywhere. Employees are stressed, upset and uncertain about their future. Unemployment has sky-rocketed. Business owners are seeing their life work destroyed before their eyes. Forcing business to incur debt (even at a low interest rate) is a horrible solution, especially where there is no realistic opportunity for income to make them whole (i.e. exactly in the same place they would have been, but not for the current events). Until you are a small business, you talk with small business owners – – you have no idea the devastation.”
She is hurting. Deeply. It’s easy to posture yourself against others, but it’s a very broad brush to assume others are not seeing and experiencing the same devastation in the current health and economic climate. Her response, to me, was as much a call for help as a reproach to our reference to “challenges and opportunities” in our group email.
I do understand. I am a small business. I represent small businesses. I support small businesses. I come from a family of small business owners. And I see the effects of closures and quarantines on my family, my friends, and my neighbors. My vigilant wife helps care for her father after a recent surgery–I’m reminded daily and personally how careful we must be as a family and individuals so that she can continue to visit and help him. A friend’s daughter was recently in an accident and suffered a head injury, which requires her to be on a ventilator at the moment–the same equipment that would quickly become unavailable with the rise of Coronavirus infections. Fortunately, we haven’t experienced any close deaths, but I fear the day we hear of COVID-19 impacting the actual lives immediately around us. So, yes, I do understand.
Ultimately, I replied with my most sincere hope to make our section a resource for friends and professional colleagues impacted by the extensive, damaging reach of COVID-19. I hope she will receive it with more understanding than before. More importantly, though, I feel like her response is precisely the reason we need to reach out to those around us–to gain perspective, empathize, connect, and collaborate toward a hopeful future tomorrow and the next day and the next day until there is some physical and emotional relief.
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