There is an age-old expression which has evolved from its origins in the Bible and into our everyday language: “You are the salt of the earth.” The reference to “salt” is dual-meaning, one, salt was one of the only preservatives used in those ancient days, and two, salt is what brought flavor to food, just as it does today. We need salt for its preservative value, but we also need it for its ever-important flavor value. Can you imagine life without salt?
In the days of COVID-19, when the world can seem adrift, we can apply the metaphor of “salt of the earth” to our small businesses, the very businesses that give our world color, life, stability and indeed, flavor! Like our need for salt to extend the life of cured meats, we need those businesses to preserve our communities, our neighborhoods, our traditions, our values as a society. Without these small, local, family-run industries, we risk becoming a big, extended concrete, impersonal box with a blinking neon sign.
Whether it is mom-and-pop “homegrown” eateries, bars and delis, or the salons and barbershops that were the actualization of lifelong dreams, or the gift shops, car repair shops, service providers and hundreds of other businesses whose owners gave life to an idea from a need in their community ~ we need them ALL to preserve our way of life, our institutions, our history.
When I first began writing business spotlights for Beacon Communications, the parent company that produces the Cranston Herald, I had only a scant appreciation for the labors of these small business owners. I frequented many of them, but often found myself gravitating to the larger, “impersonal big box retails stores” where I could do all my own shopping in one place: a one-stop shopping experience. The truth is, shopping at those stores is no “experience” at all ~ it is mere drudgery. My investment in that “community” was limited to the person at the checkout counter.
What I have discovered with the small business owners is that they are the heart of our neighborhoods, towns, and cities. These entrepreneurial souls are creative, innovative, resourceful, and steadfast. They also depend on us now more than ever.
The coronavirus that has defined the year 2020 has stolen much from us – not just the incalculable loss of lives but also the incalculable loss of livelihoods. So for now, the next time you are tempted to swing through a fast food chain restaurant, consider visiting your local diner or corner restaurant instead. The next time you want to run into a huge retail store, consider purchasing whatever you need at your local gift shop, florist, hardware store, and so much more.
There are opportunities everywhere to support our small business owners. I hope you will find ways to patronize as many as you can.
Though they are the salt of the earth, they may not endure without us.