I just ran into a friend who owns a popular restaurant in San Francisco. He seemed really down and despondent and I asked him what was going on. He was almost in tears as he told me that he had to lay off 21 employees as business was way down over the last year. He did his best to keep them all on and paid. Now he is hoping that he won’t have close.
Even as the pandemic is lessening it’s hold on us and we are slowly returning to a new normal, there is no magic to make everything better. As I walk the streets of San Francisco, most offices are empty of employees, retail shops are closed with rental signs or boarded up with hope and potential plans for reopening. Businesses, like my husband’s museum will be reopening this summer after being closed for over a year. As a business that counts on tourism especially international tourism, there will be no big surge of customers and sales this summer. And I know many small businesses in the same situation or with less customers and low sales. This makes it difficult to hang on while having to pay rent, salaries, utilities and other expenses.
Then there are the employees of those small businesses that have been laid off or are working reduced hours with lower pay. Unemployment helps, but is often not enough to live well. Everyone deserves to live a good decent life. And God forbid if these employees or the unemployed get sick as so many have no health insurance. Some may still work if they can, because they have to take care of themselves or their families, and need the income. Even if you have gotten a vaccine it doesn’t prevent all illnesses and disease, and is not 100% foolproof.
In the city where there used to be hustle and bustle of people going to work, running errands, buying or heading home, it is still relatively quiet. During the afternoon rush hour there is a backup on the streets leading to crossing the Bay Bridge. As I walk my daily miles, I have seen beauty and I have seen hardship especially in the eyes of the downtrodden and homeless. People lying in doorways, under freeways in tents, with their treasures in shopping carts talking to imaginary people. Just yesterday, a homeless man was running around and screaming in the middle of a major roadway. Traffic stopped for a moment, then went around him. I could see he was in pain. What is his story? What pushed him over the edge? And what about the others?
I can often tell those that are recently homeless. They are better groomed and their clothes are cleaner, their eyes are clearer. Then as the days, weeks and months go by, their skin becomes ruddy and dirty, their clothes tatter, and the light within dims. What happened that drove them to live in their cars or on the streets?
I was on the front lines in 2001 and 2008 when there were massive layoffs that affected thousands of people. As a career coach I helped many of those employees. And now there is a huge economic downturn in many industries. It may be for a different reason this time than last, but sadly, the results for the short term will be the same, many people have lost their jobs. Depending on the industry, geographic location and other factors, some have or will land a new position quickly. For others, it will take longer and for those that are older or have specialized skills, they may not be able to find a comparable position and salary.
There is one thing that I know – history repeats itself over and over again. There is a lot of good in the world and yet there is plenty of bad. The rise and fall of the economy, just as wealth, greed, power, conflict and war come and go, the development and lifecycle of products and marketing, birth and death and the cycle of life, the months and seasons of the year all repeat with seeming regularity. And every change large or small produces a ripple effect. We often think of it in terms of interest rates on loans. When interest rates are lowered, it makes it easier for banks, businesses and individuals to borrow and with that money they buy things and it boosts the economy. There are so many different ways a change can produce a ripple effect such as choosing to buy from certain companies or donating to a cause or organization, conserving water at home, wearing a mask during a pandemic, and so much more.
My heart goes out to everyone that is suffering – those that are sick, homeless, victims of crime or abuse, employees that have and will lose their jobs, and small businesses that may not be able to make it through to the other side. Even as the days ahead will get brighter and full of hope again, please do what you can to support those that are less fortunate or who have hit a rough spot in life and business.
Please open your heart and your wallet and do what you can. If everyone makes an effort to pay it forward and create a ripple effect, then we can all as part of humanity make a true difference.
By putting others’ interests first and giving—at work or in your community, you will be seen as a giver, which will command a high level of trust and respect. Focusing on and taking action on how you can help others is powerful. It triggers a domino or ripple effect, whereby the people who know you and are part of your network will be more motivated to help you to succeed.
Steps you can take steps to help those in financial need
- Purchase from small independent businesses locally and online even if you pay a little more – I shop at my neighborhood nature store and buy take-out food from local restaurants.
- When dining out or buying take-out food or coffee leave an extra-large tip for the server – I know they have bills to pay so I leave more knowing that with less customers there will be less tips.
- Donate $ to small businesses and non-profits – We are used to donating to non-profits because we support their mission and also to get a tax deduction. Most for profit small businesses would appreciate a donation right now maybe even more so than non-profits as they are fighting to survive and keep their employees on payroll.
- Donate physical items directly to people in need or to non-profits – Maybe a family could use your children’s gently used toys or clothes. Or if someone only had a computer at work perhaps your old laptop would really help as that former colleague looks for work.
- Refer people to small businesses – Tell and remind your friends about businesses that provide products and services, which you value.
- Support a Go Fund Me campaign – There are plenty of campaigns out there and a lot of need so choose to help what resonates most for you and how you can best help.
- Buy food or other necessities and give it to a friend in need, someone living on the street or on fixed low income, or a person that recently lost their job. There are delivery services if you do not want to purchase and deliver yourself – Who would not appreciate a bag of groceries at their door or a hot meal.
- Purchase a gift card and give it to someone in need. There are virtual gift cards. You can buy and give specific business or store gift cards as well as Visa and MasterCard gift cards that will help someone to pay bills or buy groceries.
**If someone is having a tough time whether financially, physically or emotionally reach out and call if you can. There are a lot of people that live alone and with social distancing or with medical/physical issues and staying at home more often, communication from you showing you care can be a real lifeline.