Regardless of who you are now, who you were in the past, or who you will be in the future, I think everyone will now be a ‘prepper’. Please consider this: We’ve all had a taste of doing without something in the past month or so, and I for one don’t look forward to this time in history becoming the new normal.
I was in Girl Scouts from about 2nd grade until 7th grade. We learned many skills such as hiking, cooking outside, sleeping outside, fire starting, selling cookies (yes, that is a skill) and being a responsible citizen. In the forth grade our teacher taught some of us to crochet. In high school I took Home Economics and learned to sew. My maternal grandmother taught me to make jelly, and a good friend taught me to can meat in jars. These are mostly skills that all of our grandmothers learned from a very young age, and some of our grandfathers as well. But many of our youth today are not learning life skills.
Ask a child what they want to do and who they want to be when they grow up. For me and my friends the answer may have been occupations such as a teacher, a policeman, a fireman, a doctor, nurse or mommy. But ask a kid today what they want to be and many will answer that their goal in life is to be a gamer, you tuber, or professional sports player. What changed? And when did it change? I think for many, parents did not want their children to have to work as hard as they did, so in an effort to let them enjoy their childhood, they also deprived the children from learning life skills that are most certainly going to come in handy now and in the future.
Take a moment and think about jobs that were not considered ‘essential’ to life during this pandemic. Who was shut down? Well, movie theaters were closed, so actors really weren’t needed. We enjoy the distraction from the problems of life and escape the reality by watching a movie or attending a ball game, but those things are not essentials. Tattoo parlors, nail salons, and hair dressers were also asked to close. I love to have my finger and toe nails ‘done’, and there’s really nothing like getting a new hair cut to lighten your step for a little while. Dine-in eating establishments are certainly a convenience and a welcome change for many but they, too, were closed for a few weeks and a lot of folks had to start cooking at home more, or in some cases, again. All of these places that were asked to close for safety’s sake are a large part of our lives and were missed greatly, but apparently were not deemed ‘essential’ to life.
Our own small business, an auto repair shop, was open for the duration but there were few customers and it was a struggle. It seems to be picking up a little now, thankfully.
For years I’ve been ‘preaching’ to anyone who would listen about the benefits of having a little extra on hand. My friends and family get tired, I know, of hearing me tell them to plan ahead. Young adults should learn useful skills that have nothing to do with computers and high tech. This ‘state of emergency’ did not interupt electricity or internet, but what will be the next ‘new normal’? Think ahead. How many times have you heard someone say, “what if”? I can not even begin to count the number of times I have said those words myself. I even wrote two books of fiction on ‘what if there were an economic collapse’ to give people a little perspective on how fast society could begin to unravel from an unexpected emergency.
An Illustrative Story
With all that being said, this is my story:
I first began to hear about a ‘virus’ after the first of the year (2020). By the middle of February there was beginning to be a few reports on national news networks as well. I talked to a family member who had traveled to China many times with work and asked if they’d had any contact with any of their friends in that region and was told that they had talked to a particular good friend over there and that they were being very cautious.
A few days later we were going to be grinding corn for cow feed at our farm and I knew we would need some surgical face masks to keep from breathing in too much corn dust so I went to Dollar Tree to get a box of 10 masks. They were out, but the stocker told me I could order them online. Leaving there, I went to Wal-Mart to see if they had a small box, which they didn’t. I went home and looked at Dollar Tree online and saw that you had to buy 24 boxes and pay $10 shipping and I wasn’t up for that just to get a couple of masks for corn grinding, so I looked up Wal-Mart and they were selling that $1 box of 10 masks, just like the ones at Dollar Tree, for $89.95. I had to look again, but it was for 10 masks! I shared both links to my Facebook page because I was just shocked. About 30 minutes later I was told by a friend that the price had changed so I pulled up the site again and this time those 10 masks were $99.95! Someone else suggested I go to the ‘Small-Mart’ because their inventory showed they had a few boxes. I went and checked and they were out already. I left there and went over to Harbor Freight where I bought a box of 50 for $5.99, so all was good.
Later that afternoon I got to thinking about those surgical masks and that virus. I knew the masks were made in China, because almost everything is, right? And China was in the midst of a huge outbreak of some new virus. It wasn’t many days later that travel restrictions were put into place for anyone coming or going to China. They were also restricting items being imported from China on container ships. Well, that was a game changer for me. Where did most of my prescription medicine come from? China. Where did some of the other products I liked to use come from? China. Now if they aren’t letting those container ships unload, where will we get our ‘stuff’?
So I sat down and typed a note to close family and friends about preparing for a possible disruption in the supply chain due to this virus. Of course they humored me and then most laughed behind my back. Meanwhile, I was getting very low on my blood pressure and cholesterol medications so I made an appointment with my doctor to get my 6 month check up, blood work and prescriptions refilled. All was well, and I had several months worth of my meds, so then I turned to products. What might we need if this mess came here? I already had at least a couple of weeks worth of food and paper products which is recommended by FEMA. I am a CERT volunteer and talk to people about this stuff all the time.
And Then Came Wuhan
About a week later the Covid-19 virus became headline news. That was all you heard about now that the impeachment hearings were over. I wore a face mask when I went to the store and people stared and pointed at me, laughed at me, I didn’t care.
A few days later I went to the grocery store to get a few things and people were in the midst of panic buying. All of the toilet paper was gone and people were asking if paper towels would work just as well. There was no bread, buns, dinner rolls, or Texas toast on the shelves. All of the sugar, flour, and grits were gone (we live in South Georgia, so grits is a staple). I was getting a few gallons of bleach for the pool, and I’m glad I did because within a week you could not find bleach, disinfectant spray, disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizer anywhere in town.
I shared articles on Facebook as a way of preparing my friends and others of the dangers of this virus. Facebook ‘friends’ who were in the nursing profession were laughing at me and mocking me, sharing their own ‘memes’ to Bring it on, they weren’t afraid of a little ole virus, it wasn’t as bad as the flu and more like a little cold. They quickly found out they were wrong. I was asking the question, ‘why are the healthcare professionals in Washington State wearing so much protection if this was just a cold?” I did not get a good answer. Why do only healthcare professionals need to wear masks? Again, no good answer.
I decided to start sewing face masks. The media was telling people not to buy face masks because they wouldn’t help and besides, the doctors and nurses needed them, not the general public. I was sewing face masks anyway. I made one for everyone in my family. My parents, my husband’s parents, my sisters and their husbands, my children and their spouses and my grandchildren. Then I had someone ask if they could buy one. I made more masks. I began to sell them to the average person. In my opinion, it was not just those in the medical field that needed to be protected, it was the teller at the bank, the cashier at the store, the pastor who may need to visit a family in need, everyone needed to wear a mask. I began to post them for sell on local swap & shop pages of Facebook. I sold them for $5 each, not much more than the cost of the fabric and elastic. Someone commented on my post that I should be donating them for free to the hospital. I saw that he worked for the hospital. Was he now working for free? I didn’t think so. I am definitely not as important as a doctor or nurse, but I have a skill that I have learned and I was going to use it to help pay the bills.
A Logistical Challenge
I made so many masks that I was running out of elastic. I thought I had a good supply from bits and pieces and packs I had bought at yard sales, but that was quickly depleted. I needed more elastic, but the stores were sold out and online ordering was projecting a mid-May delivery…. and it was only March! I kept sewing the masks, knowing I would not have the elastic for them, but I felt like God would provide. As I was walking from my sewing room to my kitchen I noticed a bag hanging on the door knob of my utility room (which is also my sewing room). I had walked by that door at least 20 times that day and walked right past that bag each time, but this time I noticed the bag. I stopped walking and backed up, looked in the bag and it was full of packs of elastic! God did provide! I guess I had bought it months ago and instead of putting it away I had just hung the bag on the door and forgotten about it. I was so excited! I called a few people to tell them what a great thing the Lord had done for me.
I used up that elastic and checked on my online order, still no delivery until sometime in May. I ordered some more off eBay that gave a delivery date of two weeks away. I figured I could always use it for other projects if I didn’t need it for making masks. The delivery date came and went, almost two weeks now since it was due to be at my house and it still sits at a post office in Opa Locka, Florida. But a little over a week ago, early one morning, I was sitting in my sewing room thinking and I looked over at a large box of fabric and such that was sitting beside my sewing machine. My mind said to look in the box, but I argued with myself that I had already looked in that box twice and had not found any elastic. “Look in the box!”, my mind was telling me. I was already way ahead on making masks with no elastic in sight anyway, so I looked in the box again. I dug down deep, past the folded fabric and the rolls of lace, over the cards of ribbon and the basket of patterns at the bottom of the box. I was arms length into that box, with the basket tearing and scraping the skin off my arm as I reached past to the bottom where I pulled out not one, not two, but three large rolls of white elastic, just the right size for the masks I was making. The Lord did provide! I was yelling with excitement as I ran through the house to wake my husband and share my blessing. I was holding a roll of elastic with one hand and a cloth on my bleeding arm with the other hand. I didn’t even care about my arm, I had a blessing, a huge blessing!
I’ve been using my skill at sewing to make masks for the average person as well as making a little money to help pay bills while our business is so slow. I’m hoping to go blackberry picking later this week and make blackberry jelly for family and friends to go with all that peanut butter everybody has been buying up. I have all the ingredients to start making fresh loaves of bread,even tho there does seem to be more stocked at the stores at the moment. And I’ve also been crocheting cotton dish cloths as folks need them. My point is, I’m trying to use my skills to help my family and others during this historic time in our lives, and to continue to encourage others to develop and use their skills as well. Like the song says, none of us knows what tomorrow holds, but we do know who holds tomorrow. And the weight is always lighter if we carry the load together (socially distanced, of course).