2020 is a year that most of us will never forget. It reminds me of the opening paragraph from Charles Dickens’ classic historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” This passage could have been written last week! The amazing thing is that Dickens published the book in 1859, and its historical setting is during the French Revolution that began in the late 1700s.
So far, this year, we’ve had days where what we thought we knew about the condition of the country was one thing when we got up in the morning, then it changed by the afternoon, only to change again by the time we were ready for bed. And it wasn’t just a few days of this, we’ve suffered through entire weeks and now months of it.
It seems that societal challenges are so complicated and involved that it’s easy to become paralyzed by not knowing what to do next. All you want is for it to go away.
When you consider the many crises our nation has faced in the past, three of the biggies are the Civil War, the Spanish Flu, and the Great Depression. These are examples of civil unrest, a pandemic, and an economic disaster. Somehow, we managed to get through all of them, and in each case, we learned something along the way to make things better than before.
So far this year, we started out with the best economy in history only to get blindsided by a pandemic, followed by a recession, and then protests and riots over the tragic death of George Floyd. It’s been bad, really bad — and we’re only halfway through the year.
All these tragedies affect each of us in different ways. We each have a different story and a different perspective. That’s what makes our experiences personal. We may not feel like sharing those experiences or our feelings about them, but I’m looking forward to sharing the stories about the different ways we, as an industry and a country, overcame the challenges we all faced and continue to face.
In the May issue of GEARS Magazine, I shared some things I learned about new business practices we implemented because of the pandemic. I must admit we would not have tried and discovered these new practices were we not forced to by government mandates. We had no choice. But as we worked through the changes, we found that many of the resulting changes work so well that we won’t go back to many of the old ways, even after the pandemic is over.
We’re beginning to hear similar stories from shop owners – the challenges they faced, the ways they worked through them. It’s encouraging to see how people face adversity and come out with a new business idea that works so well that they won’t change back after the crisis is over. It may be an odd way to think of it, but if we don’t learn from a crisis, then it’s just another crisis among many.
Yes, it’s been a rough year so far, but I’m hopeful that we’re learning something positive along the way. Who knows, we might learn how to be better prepared for disasters like pandemics, less vulnerable to financial reversals, and find better ways to treat our fellow man. These things will benefit everyone in the end.