Last week I won a bit of money from the lottery. There’s just one problem, I don’t buy lottery tickets, scratchers or otherwise. Yet by some weird stroke of fate, at a time when the world is quite literally shut down, money was dropped into my bank account.
Now I won’t lie, initially seeing the balance increase was exciting. My mind raced a bit on what I would do with it. I mean, it’s not every day free money shows up in one’s bank account, well at least not mine. I should also note here that my reduced spending due to shutdown has had a growth effect on my bank account as well. Plans I was once excited for, now no longer, more money saved.
Enter into this story some “stimulus” money and well, mind blown. I place that word in quotes because as a small town community member, once the feeling of winning the lottery passed I recognized my community responsibility.
Prior to the initial roll out of the money, I must admit I was a bit confused. How were we to spend “stimulus” money in local businesses as the world is essentially shut down?
Before going further I must admit, receiving this money made me a bit uncomfortable. I’m still working. Apparently continuing to fill pages with words for all of you to read is not only my calling, but lucky enough for me it’s also deemed “essential.” So receiving free money while gainfully employed, when others have closed doors and decreased revenue throughout our town … just felt wrong.
Rather than turn to Amazon, pay off a bill or fill my Target drive-up cart, I shopped local – virtually. I ordered take-out from a new burger joint for my kids, placed an on-line order for local pick-up at Oakies and a few other places.
As I spoke to Cryndi by phone, she shared there was little reason for her to be at her Oakies shop these days. At the same time, she was happy to be there to confirm the non-essential items I was buying were indeed in stock. I say non-essential because truthfully my kids didn’t need sweatshirts or the like on that day, but buying them certainly couldn’t hurt and both sides win.
As I left the lot of the Oakies shop I happened by another curbside shopper who happens to be a friend. It’s a funny new way to catch up with people, but has honestly become the new norm.
As she and I spoke she asked how things were for me. I mean the reality is, when you’re the small town paper and hear the entire town is being shut down (schools, businesses, events), you quickly gain perspective on what your job really is.
I shared with her the frustration I’ve recently come by as I hear (and see) friends and community members share “support small business”, yet somehow we get overlooked. As local stories are given to larger papers first or the local paper not even thought of, we are in fact a dying business, a reality as journalists we have all faced for a decade now. We feel fortunate to still have communities to work for and words to write.
Indeed it is fact that we are owned by a large publishing company, however if we do not maintain community support and profitability then there’s no business. No different than my friend Cryndi at Oakies, or any of the other business owners I’ve been blessed to come to know over the years. That’s just plain fact. It’s an odd place to be as a writer who has done this for close to two decades, but now as I watch people travel to other towns for food and necessity it hits me different. As the local paper we not only want the community to thrive, we need the community to thrive and we need its support.
So what does all this mean in the big scheme of things? Please think twice about your free money and what you do with it. If you are in a place of need, please by all means, use it to care for your family. If however you happen to be like me, please use it to bless the future needs of another. We are nothing if we are not united. It does indeed take a village.
Stay safe and stay healthy.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.