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In Search of the Great White Charmin...

It’s been SURREAL. Signs mandating masks upon entering establishments along with capacity restrictions. Greeters tracking the number of customers entering and exiting. Arrows marking “one-way” to control customer flow throughout. Placards affixed to store shelves stating limits on buying essential items such as cleaning, toiletry, paper, hygiene, bread, meats, canned, and dairy products. Empty shelves. Floor decals stating “Stand Here” placed at 6-foot intervals leading to masked cashiers behind plexiglass.

When our Governor announced late on a Friday afternoon in Mid-March 2020 that, beginning the following Monday, our state would “lock down” for a minimum of two weeks (hoping to “flatten the curve” with the expected result of avoiding overwhelming our hospital system) this abrupt shut-down and stay-at-home order for everyone except those deemed as “essential workers” resulted in entire communities descending upon their local stores to obtain the necessary food and supplies to comfortably sustain them for the duration. This sudden run on the stores resulted in empty store shelves within a few hours and, not surprisingly to those who know anything about store supply management, emptied the local warehouses as well.

By late Friday night, social media posts rumored that toilet paper was unavailable in any store anywhere or even online! This was quite exaggerated, of course, but to the local shopper, it was a reality. People soon began to video shoppers fighting over toilet paper and post it online, eliciting numerous nasty comments from viewers about selfish hoarders to the point that, next thing one heard was comments from law enforcement and government officials condemning hoarding and other posts making fun of the hoarders that COVID didn’t cause diarrhea to spur such hoarding ( then, ironically, a couple of months later, diarrhea was added to the list of COVID symptoms). These negative videos and comments about selfish hoarding offended me because my opinion is that the sudden shut-down, displacing many adults and all children at home causing the run on the stores, emptying the shelves and, subsequently the warehouses within a few days resulted not from hoarding but, instead, as a direct result of the abrupt shut-down because all those individuals suddenly forced at home increased the demand for the supplies beyond what the suppliers could manage on such short notice. For example, when each child is at school six hours per day, five days per week, they are using the school’s toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissues, and hand soap/sanitizer. Additionally, many students eat both breakfast and lunch at school. As Christmas break and summer approaches, more than likely, their caregivers begin to stock up on the extra needed food and supplies and, most likely, the stores order in extra in anticipation of the increased demand. So also, the manufacturers increase their production of home-based as opposed to industrial or institution-based products accordingly. Likewise also, all those displaced workers increased the demand for home-based toiletries and foods because they were not at work using their employers’ toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissue, and soap/sanitizer and they were suddenly eating at home instead of eating at the on-site cafeteria, ordering delivery, running through the drive-thru on their lunch break, picking up take-out, or hitting the vending machine. Stores only carry about a three-day supply of essential items so this is why they get a truck in every few days. The schools had just re-stocked for the coming week and the restaurants had just brought in more supplies in anticipation for the next week’s customer demand. Now there was all that food potentially going to waste because it was packaged in institution-sized quantities, not home-based quantities. Our local school district got permission to deliver meals to the students at home to use up the food in their storage and this kept cafeteria workers on the job and the students fed. However, many restaurants did not fare as well because of their decrease in demand and even some dairy farmers began to literally give away their products or, sadly, have to resort to dumping their milk.

I recall walking up and down the store aisles thinking to myself how grateful I was (and still am) that my grandparents and mother aren’t alive to see the empty store shelves because it may frighten them by reminding them of lean times in their own lives. I had to admit, it was quite discouraging and frustrating for me to see empty shelves and limitation signs. My dilemma was that I had three places for which to obtain essential supplies: my household, for my elderly father, and for my church. Therefore, having two households and a small church to shop for was no small feat with empty shelves and limits on essentials. I had to think outside the box—outside the “big box” stores. With the extra miles to travel for work, lengthening my work day and the stores closing earlier than normal, I didn’t have time to make separate repeated trips to be able to get enough essentials for all three places nor did I have time to hit every store in town, hoping to get essentials for all three places. Therefore, I began traveling just outside of town to smaller stores such as a local Amish “Bent and Dent” shop featuring salvage groceries, bulk goods, and a deli. They did not enforce any limits on their items so there I could obtain many essentials in one place during one visit. I also traveled to a small dollar store just outside of town where the manager was so nice to me, he took me into his storage room and offered to sell me all the cleaning wipes he had left in stock! Not wanting to be a “selfish hoarder,” I bought only what each place needed, thanking him profusely. I made a point of going there every couple of weeks to buy something to continue a positive relationship with that store as well the Amish shop. Although I learned many lessons during the early days of the pandemic, my main “take away” lesson from the initial COVID lockdown is: Living a lifestyle of preparedness is no longer a concept to which to aspire but is now a reality to be lived out each day despite the risk of being ridiculed as a hoarder or as not having faith in God’s provision and protection. Although I had initially had a small supply of toilet paper, I didn’t want to completely deplete my supply so I purchased the posted limit for toilet paper and paper towels at each store I shopped during each visit to maintain my supply. After having been a Red Cross Disaster Services volunteer for more than a decade and having worked several home fires and the 1996 Flood, I am an avid believer in emergency preparedness and teach my peers what I know. FEMA (The Federal Emergency Management Agency), PEMA (Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency), and The American Red Cross all recommend everyone have a three-day to a three-week minimum supply of nonperishable foods, water or a way to disinfect water, first aid supplies, pet and baby supplies as needed, hygiene supplies, and meds on hand at all times to be prepared for any emergency. I aspire to a three-month supply or longer which can also guard against income loss due to long-term illness or injury (especially recovery from surgery) or even job loss. If one were to think of emergency preparedness as an additional insurance policy, perhaps more people would prep. I am a firm believer in being able to not only help myself, but also to be able to help others. Hoarders do not share out of their abundance. Godly preppers do. As for those who criticize preppers for relying on their preps and not on God’s provision and protection, I remind these critics that God called upon Noah and Joseph of the Old Testament to prepare for harsh times to save others. Likewise, The Proverbs 31 woman is praised for her preparations for the coming winter. And, in the New Testament the Apostle Paul asked some of his fellow believers to lay aside provisions for him to pick up and take for less fortunate believers. Therefore, there is nothing ungodly about prepping so long as one has the proper “sharing attitude” about it. However, there is so much to learn about emergency and long-term survival preparedness, I would not have nearly the time to share the little bit I learned so far here in this blog entry. Perhaps in future blog posts, I will share more..... Disclaimer: Blog posts reflect the opinions and experiences of the specific blogger and do not reflect the views or beliefs of Peerstar, LLC as an organization.

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