Normally, this time of year, we might be urging people to give a thought to the less commercial aspects of Christmas. We’d be reminding readers that the season should be about sharing with family, friend and neighbours; about extending the spirit of kindness and charity for those in need, rather than simply embracing consumerism for the sake of it.
And while all this remains true, these are anything but normal times.
With a second wave of COVID-19 running rampant, the threat of further lockdowns still looms, even as most of us attempt to do the right thing in reducing the risk of spreading the virus. And that means the focus of our charitable instincts must be broadened somewhat.
Now some of those friends and neighbours most in need are our own local retailers and small business owners. For them, what used to be a potential annual bonanza is now a cold winter of uncertainty. Without local support some will likely go under, joining the ranks of those who have already – and quite shockingly – shuttered their businesses forever.
At the same time, many of us are facing financial challenges as a result of the pandemic. Income we thought we could count on has been sharply reduced – or ceased altogether.
Most of us don’t have cash to throw around on profligate spending. And if we are fortunate enough to have a little extra on hand, we should certainly still be considering donating to organized charities, or doing our own little charitable acts, unsung as they may be.
Some of our money, it’s likely, will go to online shopping. As much as we decry the practices of some of the largest online retailers, local stores are simply not able to stock everything under the sun. The survival of many worthy entrepreneurs – including artists, writers, entertainers and artisans – now depends on online marketing.
But as we budget for the season – no matter how much we have to spend – we should give first thought to our local merchants, even if our visits are masked, physically-distanced and only long enough, for example, to grab take-out or take advantage of curb-side pickup.
These are the retailers and restaurants that have often been friendly faces for years. They have given us extra value in service and smiles; provided our sons and daughters their first jobs. They have contributed to local good deeds, they have funded sports teams and other activities for children, youth and adults. They have done everything they can to provide a safe environment during this pandemic.
Their success is our success, and spending with them now is an investment in our community’s future.