Over the weekend we went to the Anderson’s. It is a privately owned supermarket. They sell hardware, groceries, clothing, furniture, almost everything. More accurately, they sold almost everything. The company is closing its retail stores. The losses were too significant to overcome. It is one of those decisions that make sense, and may be unavoidable, but are still difficult to understand. A decision that cuts a swath through families, and communities.
If you have never lost a job because the decision was made to close you can’t really understand the pain. Unless you have lived through the announcement that your job was being eliminated by a vote of the shareholders, you don’t really understand the hopelessness, the lonely sense of desperation, the overpowering sense of impotence, uselessness.
I always feel a little like a carrion bird going through the bargains. A ghoul, wandering long graveyard aisles filled with the misery of people whose lives have been changed, prowling for a little discount at the expense of a poor family learning to adapt to one less paycheck. I can feel the weight of the ghosts shuffling aimlessly around me.
A lot of stuff had already been sold. Empty shelves stood silent and lifeless. I hurried past them. It was no place to be, nothing to see, but if you looked the emptiness told so many stories, all different, all ending the same, an empty shelf, in a store that was soon to empty, and the crowded bustle of shoppers who had given it life for so many years.
We found some things, but, it was bittersweet. Making it worse, the staff was so polite, helpful, courteous, almost cheerful. I went from pity to misery. It would have been easier to face apathy, or even hostility. I would have still felt sorry for them, but it could have had an edge of anger to provide moderation. Now, though, it is just a heartbreaking numbness.
In the equation of life the loss of a few retail jobs barely even changes the result. But, in the lives of the people who attended the meeting, or got the email, or memo, or tweet this was a terrible blow. In one scandalously short instant their lives were changed dramatically for the worse. As you go about your day, think of the ways you can help someone, lift a spirit, spread a smile or a little joy. Do it for the people who are worried about their future, it may not help, but it can’t hurt.