Building Community in a Time of Uncertainty
by Casey Lokken-Baker
Flattening the Curve
If there’s one feeling I’ve been able to cling to since the emergence of the Coronavirus Pandemic this spring, it’s a feeling of pride in the Bozeman community. Even before it was mandated by our state government, many businesses both large and small shut their doors and canceled events, giving up precious dollars to “flatten the curve” in order to save the lives of anonymous strangers.
This past week I watched drivers becoming more patient, shoppers being more polite, neighbors giving bigger smiles, and a sense of “togetherness” enfolding our entire community.
But the thing is, “flattening the curve” drastically extends the duration of a pandemic. This isn’t going to be a sprint — it’s going to be a marathon, possibly over a year in length — and we must adjust our expectations accordingly. If we want to get to the other side of this in the best shape possible we must all invest in our community and recognize that sacrifice will be required for each and every one of us for the entire duration.
Caring for Others
First and foremost, we must have gratitude, patience, and discipline. We must honor the nurses, doctors, service workers, package deliverers, grocery clerks, and yes, even the TSA, all of whom will be on the front lines not only saving lives but also ensuring life itself can proceed forward as functionally as possible. To best honor these people, practice social distancing and stay home, and when you must venture out, cover your cough, wash your hands frequently, and give six feet of space to the people around you.
Help your grocer by buying only what you need in one trip per week and sending someone else in your place if you are feeling unwell. Assist airport workers by avoiding unnecessary travel for the foreseeable future. Support the elderly by offering to run their errands, bringing them groceries, taking their vehicle in, and virtually connecting to help ease feelings of social isolation. Donate groceries the Bozeman Food Bank, as they are being utilized now more than ever.
While many employees have been directed to work from home, keep in mind that up to 20% have either lost their jobs or have had a dramatic reduction in hours. Seek these people out and offer paid work, free groceries, or financial assistance. Tasks that could be outsourced include shopping, picking up takeout, yard work, babysitting, and doing laundry. There really is no limit if you get creative.
Several local churches are organizing volunteers to grocery shop and run errands for the elderly, sick, and at-risk. If you have spare time, consider using it to help those in need.
Supporting Local Business
Bozeman’s local businesses are what make this city so vibrant and it’s essential that we as a community do what we can to help get them to the other side.
On March 20th I spoke with Ian — the manager of Dave’s Sushi — on the phone about how they are adapting their business during this unique time. Ian explained that Dave’s Sushi started out as “takeout only” in 2003, so the transition hasn’t been especially difficult for them. They will soon be partnering will UberEats in an effort to expand takeout orders. They also received word from the governor that “takeout alcohol” may soon be an option. Additionally, many of their regulars have been purchasing gift cards for future visits and leaving large tips.
Starting on March 17th Bridger Brewing transitioned to takeout only and growler fills. The brewery posted the following message to their Facebook page: “Your patronage is so appreciated and will help support our spectacular staff. We have an exemplary seven-year record for food safety and sanitation practices, and we will be taking even greater precautions during this time. Be well, take care of yourself and others. We cannot wait to see you all back in the brewery!”
While many gift shops, galleries, and boutiques have shut their doors to the general public they are still selling gift cards. Purchase one for future use or as a gift to give to a loved one. Additionally, event venues such as the Verge Theater, the Ellen Theatre, and Intermountain Opera have had to cancel events and thus lose revenue. Now would be a wonderful time to protect the arts by making a donation to one or more of these companies.
Thousands of drops make up an ocean and thousands of acts of kindness, no matter how small, can greatly change the world. If we commit to investing in our communities now and recognizing that sacrifice will be required of us we will emerge on the other side of this in both in the best shape possible and strengthened in unity. •