Honoring A Year of Bravery

May 26, 2021

May brings weddings, graduations, the end of school. It also kicks off summer, starting with the Memorial Day weekend, where pools and beaches and summer resorts open up for the season.

But Memorial Day is about more than just seasonal displays at the front of the store, stack-outs of beer and soft drinks, and a bump in BBQ sales. Memorial Day is about remembering and respecting our service men and women who fell to ensure we live our lives in freedom.

I lost my uncle in 2020, and his son. Both veterans. They didn’t die in combat, but instead from the risks of falling sick in the middle of a stressed healthcare system dealing with hundreds of thousands of cases of COVID-19.

The IGA family too lost part of our extended family, with several owners falling to the global pandemic. Our country—our world—fought a war this last year against an enemy unseen, and now, over a year later, it looks like we are starting to come out of it. Finally. 

In retail, we know what it is like to deal with conflict. We do it every day, in the aisle, at the front end. And we have spent the last 14 months trying to figure out how to run a store, stay in stock, attract and hold onto staff, all in the midst of a battle none of us were trained how to fight.

And yet, we did it. We kept our communities fed; we kept the doors open; we manned registers and stocked shelves; even when people were afraid to come to work, when policies were unclear, and when shoppers panicked. 

As normalcy returns—and I so hope I never have to write posts like this about global pandemics ever again (please, never again!)—it is really amazing to look back on what happened last year at this time, and how far we have come.

This reflection got me thinking about bravery. Not the obvious meaning of that word—about young men storming beaches to fight a known, visible enemy. Instead, I've been thinking about the quiet kind of bravery. The one that others don't see, that isn’t easy to talk about because it happened all around us. 

I am talking about parents who let their teenagers come to work in our stores, not knowing if it was safe last spring. I am talking about associates who showed up each day and didn’t know if they would be bringing a deadly virus home to their kids or at-risk parents. I am talking about owners and wholesalers who worked all day, every day, on the phone with suppliers, sending associates home who had a sniffle—and who stood toe-to-toe with customers who were behaving badly because they, too, were afraid. 

Yes, Memorial Day is about our soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice. They deserve remembrance. They deserve appreciation. They have earned the right to be honored. And I am not taking that away from them. 

But this Memorial Day, at least for me, I will be thinking about 2020, too. And quietly, in my own way, remembering the day-to-day kind of bravery that happened last year that makes me so proud to be a part of the Independent Grocers Alliance. 

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