Good News and Bad News:
Recently, I again heard the oft-told story about the Chinese farmer who suffered several setbacks. Each time an adverse event happened, the neighbors complained about how bad the situation was. Each time, the farmer said, "Perhaps. We must wait and see." I know the story as "The Farmer's Horse Ran Away." The link will take you to a version that I happen to like and have added to my website.
The story was being related to some young people to help them understand the situation we are in with the pandemic. The pandemic, the teacher explained to the students, will prove to
have some good things and some not so good things happen to us because of being forced to stay home.
Many of us have had to learn a new set of video conferencing skills quickly. My experience is that even those among us who are not fond of technology have embraced the use of video conferencing, team workspaces, and the need to upgrade our home equipment. We are learning the joys of online shopping and home delivery of food!
Speaking of home equipment, those in the retail business of providing home office equipment has experienced a significant spike in revenue. Luckily, I had all the equipment necessary before the pandemic lockdown, and it was “up to the task.” Several friends have been frustrated with not being able to purchase the equipment they needed because it, like the toilet paper, was all sold out.
Any company providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has done exceedingly well. Of course, this equipment too ran out of inventory quickly. I didn’t fare quite so well in this area. We did, however, have some N95 masks leftover from the SARS epidemic. And I scrounged around in our cupboards to find some alcohol and small spray bottles to make more hand sanitizer. Again, I feel we were fortunate that we had all the paper products, food, and safety products we needed for the lockdown.
Some folks have shown that they are willing to consider their neighbors in all of this. I’ve noticed people in our community sharing necessities. We frequently receive a text stating that we will find food on our porch. And my wife regularly sends a text to neighbors, letting them know she has left a goodie of some kind on their porch.
The bad news is relatively apparent. The massive unemployment due to the business shutdown is beyond painful for those out of work. The trillions of dollars quickly distributed to individuals and businesses have eased the pain and given people hope. However, it has also driven the country’s debt off the charts.
It isn’t at all clear what the disruption of young people’s education will mean longterm. The education system did not adapt nearly as quickly as the business sector. Reports from our friends with school-aged children indicate that it took many weeks for our educators to be able to adjust equipment and lesson plans to the new reality.
Many of our businesses will (or have) fold. One of our favorite local restaurants has filed bankruptcy and is permanently out of business. It was not doing well before the pandemic, and the stress was just too much for the owners. They couldn’t sell it, so they closed it.
Some large retailers have filed for bankruptcy. Again, they were in trouble before the pandemic, and it is far worse for them now. Consumers have learned that online commerce works just fine.
Many of the business failures will mean a permanent loss of jobs in the service sector—hotels, restaurants, and entertainment. It is not clear how soon people will be willing to be in crowds at movie theaters, concerts, or amusement parks.
Of course, the airlines and cruise industry are going to be negatively affected in the near-term. But . . .
I’ve come to view this pandemic as analogous to a forest fire. It has cleared out all the growth-choking underbrush in our economy. It has likely killed off some of the younger trees, which took root in less than ideal places. The older mature trees are indeed damaged, but many are still strong and will continue to flourish. Over time, new young trees will take root in the clearings. Forest fires are devastating to the forest as we know it. However, they are necessary for the long-term health of the woods.
I am going to try and practice “wait and see” where I can. Some action cannot wait, yet, we do not have to be reactionary. To continue the fire analogy, the woods where I hunted for business will be significantly changed. Hopefully, there will be new game to pursue, along with new opportunities and more room for further growth.