Reflections of a Shopkeeper - 20 March 2020

Posted by Louise Humpington on

Yesterday was a strange day. Strange in a positive way. Strange in a negative way. Strange in a constructive way. Strange in a disheartening way. But also a joy and a pleasure. Why? Because it was real. Because it was raw. Because it was honest in a way that we rarely see these days. We spend so much time presenting and projecting. Persuading others that we are OK when we aren't. Convincing ourselves that we don't need any help. Conveying what we think others want to see. Yesterday was real. It was raw. Yesterday was crazy busy in the shop. A hugely helpful whirlwind before the inevitable lull. But we still took time to stop. To chat. To ask. To encourage. To listen. To learn. To advise. To help. To support.

People are searching at the moment. They are looking for answers that don't necessarily exist. They are seeking reassurances that we can't necessarily give. They are hoping for stability in this time of uncertainty. And whilst it isn't possible to allay all those fears, what is palpable is the sense of community that people feel.

Times of crisis bring out the best in people and the worst. It makes us celebrate the good in humanity, and hold our hands up in frustration and rage at the greed and selfishness of it also. Some of those negative behaviours are genuinely unconscionable. Some are derived from panic and fear and a kind of emotional volcano that just erupts and cannot be stemmed.

But there is also good. So much so. It doesn't have to be presented in grandiose gestures. It's the small things. The gentle considerations. The willingness to give. It's the man in the pub who has lost his job but still wants to buy a pint for the young couple who have no idea whether their new business will survive the crisis. It's the friend who drives into Edinburgh to collect a laptop for another to save them a journey so they can stay at home with the kids. It's the lady who in her last trip out before she self isolates, brings homemade cards to us that we can give people when we deliver their shopping. It's the person who types up a list of helpful contact numbers to share. It's the offer of help to set up a website because you have no idea what you're doing. It's the solidarity you feel with other parents equally frustrated by the closure of schools and nurseries. It's the reciprocation of neighbours shopping for each other. It's the person who pops their head around the door just to ask if you're OK. It's the businessman who makes a generous contribution to our food bank pot. It's the lady who comes to buy ingredients to make soaps for her young team who are petrified about cleanliness. It's the child who takes the last loo roll from their home and makes presents containing five sheets of toilet roll wrapped in a piece of paper for their classmates, because they have heard that others have run out. It's the businesses and individuals who are offering their service and skills to others for free. It's the business owner who offers to do a wholesale shop for another business to help them out in this bonkers period. It's those who try to make us laugh and give us a shoulder to cry on. It's the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between. It's raw. It's honest and it's real.

In spite of all we will see that angers and frustrates us, there will be so much more that makes us proud. To be part of a community which cares. To be part of a society which worries about each other. To be connected with people even when we are isolated from them. This is the start of a roller-coaster of a journey. What that journey ultimately looks like by the end is down to us. We have the power to make it a positive one. So be there for people. Be kind to others. Support where you can. And never be afraid to ask for help. So many people want to if they can. Give them the chance. Goodness and kindness and love doesn't always come in grandiose gestures. It's the little things that count, and they will if we each do a wee bit.


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