Roget’s College Thesaurus defines vulnerable as “weak, defenseless, assailable, susceptible.” Webster’s Dictionary describes it as “that which can be wounded or injured, easily hurt by criticism or attack.”
The Center for Disease Control defines vulnerable populations as “People who cannot comfortably or safely access and use the standard resources required in disaster preparedness, relief and recovery. This may include people with sensory impairments (blind, deaf, hard-of-hearing); cognitive disorders; mobility limitations; limited English comprehension or non-English speaking; and people who are geographically or culturally isolated, medically or chemically dependent, or homeless.”
That’s all good and fine. We’ve all heard plenty about our vulnerable population, God bless them all.
What doesn’t get near enough time or attention in broadcast, print or social media is mention of our vulnerable small businesses.
I think we all agree that there are too many discrepancies over what businesses are and are not essential. Some businesses can open, others cannot, selling the same products.
I think the powers that be got it wrong again. If it was up to me, I’d do the reverse—close the big box retailers and leave small businesses open. The fewer number of shoppers, the less chance of contracting the virus. Small business owners don’t have as much financial cushion as their bigger competitors, nor as much staff, so the order to stay closed cuts deeper; the pain is far worse.
Consider the plight of this local small business owner, a single mother with three children, who tried for one of the small business stimulus loans but was told she didn’t qualify. She said in an email to members of her fitness business that she might not survive the shutdown. She asked the members to invest $100 or any amount able to help her pay the rent, utilities and other expenses for her centers of which she has two in Barron County one in Polk County and one in St. Croix County. For those who invest, the owner will provide a personal training session with a peak performance coach and a fitness plan.
Many other merchants all across small town America are in similar straits and hoping for the shutdown to end before their businesses do. Let’s continue doing what we can for these vulnerable businesses.
Whether reading a book, watching a movie or seeing it in real life, our hearts go out to the vulnerable. That’s why the classic tale of Cinderella remains ever popular. That’s why the sayings from the movie “Forrest Gump,” which was released 25 years ago, are still expressed today. Remember his sincere question “What’s normal anyways?”
Those who show vulnerabilities cause us to feel connected to their struggles, fears, humanness. We are all vulnerable in some way, and can identify with honest, sometimes raw emotion or experience.
Blogger Carrie Severson has said, “The term vulnerable scares some people. For me, it’s actually comfortable. I have written about my fertility, stint with burnout, depression and journey back to happiness. Maybe being vulnerable doesn’t feel professional to some, maybe it feels exposing. It can be hard for some because the term itself means opening oneself up to harm or criticism.”
To get through this year, and be better for having lived through it, we all need to give and take. Being brave enough to share a need allows another an opportunity to give back or pay it forward. That's why I love the Neighbors Helping Neighbors group site on Facebook. I hope it lasts long after businesses reopen, theater performances resume and other social activities pick up.
Having just observed Mother’s Day, let’s also remember the most vulnerable of all—the unborn child. While abortions in Wisconsin are below the national average, we are still missing out on the innate skills and abilities of all those whose heartbeats are stilled before their first breath. With his mouth, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, at the peak of fighting the coronavirus, said, “if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.” Meanwhile his hand signed into law the Reproductive Health Act that legalizes abortion until birth. His words and deeds don’t match.
No one wants to confront the loss of livelihood nor the loss of life either from a virus or abortion. Is one life or business more valuable than another? From here on forward, let’s look out for those who find themselves in vulnerable situations. After all, we may be next.