I think “FOR LEASE” are two of the saddest words of our time. When I saw the blinds drawn during business hours at our local butcher shop, my stomach flipped. When the sign appeared in the window a couple of weeks later, I fought tears as I stood outside on the sidewalk.
The owner is a young guy who grew up in this neighborhood. He set out to bring new life back to our community, to encourage new businesses to take a stake in the many vacant storefronts, to serve as a role model for independent, small businesses owners. He offered great products and personalized customer service with a dash of hope, and I loved supporting him.
I wish I could have done more. Now I wish I could bump into him because I have something to say, something I’ve been thinking about. My motivational speech would go something like this:
Joe, I know what it’s like to have a big dream, and I know how it feels to see that dream fail. You will figure it out. You will get through this. I have to believe that something better, something you haven’t even considered, is coming your way. I believe this experience will make you stronger, smarter, and more compassionate. I believe your life story will ultimately be one of success, a success of your own definition.
I haven’t run and lost a small business, but I did desperately want to be a mommy, and I lost my dream. With help from women like you who have shared your stories, your struggles, your inspirations, I am finding my way through the grief and into a new beginning. That’s experience I can pass on to Joe; this is one way I can pay it forward. Because the loss of a dream is a human experience, and whether we’re mommies or childfree women or downsized employees or neighborhood butchers, we can all relate to it and be supportive.
P.S. In grieving the loss of our wonderful butcher shop, I’ve thought more about how I can be a better neighbor, a better member of our community. I’ve decided that as one of my New Year’s resolutions, I will dedicate part of my groceries budget to support the local, independent shops. It will take more time and effort to run errands, but ultimately I think we all win. Consider how you might pay it forward in 2012 and share your ideas with us.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She takes issue with the idea that society still largely considers childfree women anomalies.