Author: Guy Lucas, News-Topic
At lunch on Thursday, my wife and I ordered hot dogs at Shake-N-Dog and ate on a bench in front of the Caldwell County Courthouse. The sun shone down, a gentle breeze pushed its heat away, and I looked around at the beautiful architecture.
Days like that normally calm my soul. This one made my chest tight.
I looked up and down at the many vacant parking spots up and along Main Street.
People are doing as they should, keeping to themselves when they can. The less close mixing we all do, the less the COVID-19 virus can spread.
And yet … it was so quiet. I knew there were several dozen people up and down the streets working on faith, just hoping, doing their work because it’s the only thing they can do. And across the county there were many, many more.
I felt almost like crying in desperation. The tears came to me later as I thought about it more.
Locally owned businesses, to varying degrees, are suffering from the recent coronavirus-driven restrictions, and at least some might not make it if those restrictions last very far into April.
I’m not from here, but for the past seven-plus years I have lived here and learned more and more about the people, places and businesses that make this place special.
Places like Wilson Creek, Happy Valley, the Catawba River and Grandfather Mountain define this county in many ways, especially for people who don’t live here, but they are beyond the human scale. They are immutable. The weather can alter them to some extent for some short time, but they are now much as they have always been since long before humans first set foot here. They are the scenery. They are not Caldwell County.
Businesses define an area because business is built on the people who live there. And that is especially the case with locally owned small businesses.
I love Bojangle’s, but Bojangle’s here is Bojangle’s pretty much anywhere.
Any local business – not just restaurants, but also gift shops, bakeries, florists, pharmacies, hardware stores and much more, literally hundreds of individual stores I could name – are the kinds of places that make a town or a county different from any other place. Not only because the specific details of the businesses vary but most especially because they exude the personality of the owners and their key employees.
Lenoir, or Hudson, or Granite Falls – anyplace in the county – will still be that place 50 years from now. It isn’t going anywhere. Most of the current buildings will still be there.
But “there,” here and now, is where we live, and it is defined for us by the people we see each day.
Our neighbors are hurting now. They are hurting here. We have no widespread illness at the moment, which can make the pain to business owners seem almost capricious. Except we know that without the steps to slow the virus, in a few weeks it could be worse, and then we could have both an overwhelmed medical system as well as business failures.
This is an amazingly generous community. It has been proven repeatedly.
I have been spending a bit too much in recent days, by the standards of last month. I am fortunate. All of us owe it to the rest of the county to do what we can, while observing common-sense precautions dictated by our individual level of risk, so we ensure that our locally-owned businesses reach the other side of this crisis intact.