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Distressed over COVID-19?

It’s a difficult time for us all, but positive thoughts can provide some solace

Coronavirus has completely occupied the world’s attention for months now, with little sign of abating. Speculation abounds, and the truth hurts. One sure thing is that the world will never be the same again. Despite the herculean efforts of medical personnel and all front-line workers (including, of course, the near-heroic services provided by grocers and all their employees in maintaining safe stores while keeping their shelves full), the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

Grocers have erected shields for their cashiers, sanitized checkouts and display cases, bagged products that used to be self-serve, paid staff extra, hired more people, controlled the number of shoppers in their stores (and the distance between them), and tried to carry on as normal as possible—which, of course, is impossible. We must salute their efforts.

One wonders what the future, after COVID-19, will look like for grocery stores and supermarkets. A number of years ago, I visited a supermarket in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and was surprised (no, shocked!) to find virtually everything in the produce department—bananas, apples, melons, berries and so on—were presented in clear plastic wrapping. The same was true in the bakery department; everything was in a bag. At the same time, an employee was wiping down the display tables with what I assume was an antiseptic. The cashiers were not behind shields, but were seated at their tills about five feet from customers.

There was no viral breakout in Buenos Aires at the time; the store manager told me it was simply normal business practice intended to reassure customers of the purity of their purchases. Is that what a Canadian supermarket will look like in a year or two?

I would guess most of us hope not, and to make sure things get back to normal sooner rather than later, we are hunkering down in self-isolation. To keep our spirits up, some people are trying to look for silver linings. Kevin Coupe, my former colleague and the brains behind the retail website Morning News Beat, writes: “This could be a lot worse if we didn’t have the internet ... it actually is going to allow us to be connected to loved ones and co-workers.” He adds, “I’ve found some solace in reaching out to people, to getting on the phone and calling old friends.”

That act of connecting, he says, is also something businesses must do. “Reach out to your customers ... tell them you are thinking about them and acting in their best interests ... be as loyal to them as possible.” Even though we have to practice social distancing, he writes, “it doesn’t mean that we have to be distant. In fact, precisely the opposite.”

Then there’s this piece of positive thinking, attributed to Kitty O’Meara, which has gone viral on social media:

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

Yes, it’s tough just now—with some of us hunkering down at home, and others continuing to go out to work at essential services such as supermarkets where they must exercise extreme hypervigilance to ensure safety for everyone. But if we do this well, we will get back to some kind of normal, eventually. And thinking positive thoughts certainly can’t hurt in getting us through it all.

This article appeared in Canadian Grocer‘s May 2020 issue.

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