Driving home this week I passed a restaurant near my office in suburban Philadelphia. It was the lunch hour. No cars were in the normally crowded parking lot. Just one lonely tent with their logo and some employees gathered around. I’d forgotten for a second. The governor ordered their dining room closed to customers, just as he ordered all “non-essential” businesses in Pennsylvania to close in the midst of a national pandemic.
But that lonely little tent in the parking lot restored some comfort to me during this otherwise surreal time. It was a makeshift drive-through born of necessity at this once exclusively dine-in restaurant. It was a symbol of American ingenuity and determination. It reminded me why Americans get through times like these.
It’s been hard. Many have called my radio show or reached out via social media to share the story of their customer loss, or their stagnant sales and pending layoffs. There’ve been tears and fear and more than a little righteous anger over our once robust economy just weeks ago now brought to its knees by a foreign-born virus.
Still, that tent reminded me it was going to be ok because America finds a way. As Jeff Goldblum’s character in "Jurassic Park" described life itself, “It will not be contained. It breaks free. It expands to new territories and crashes through barriers. Sometimes painfully, maybe even dangerously but - life finds a way.”
So will our country. So will our small businesses. So will our working class and those with little left to lose in the first place. We’ll find a way. That tent symbolized our beautiful free market “finding a way” within days of what looked like total destruction.
One of the first stories of this new way forward came as the pandemic shut down major sporting events. Dallas Mavericks’ billionaire-owner and “Shark Tank” star Mark Cuban put together an action plan to help his arena employees stay afloat while all events in the facility would cease indefinitely translating into hundreds of missed paychecks.
Amazon billionaire founder Jeff Bezos – for whom many Americans have no love loss – announced his company would be ramping up hiring. The company said it would invest an additional $350 million dollars to give current employees a two-dollar-an-hour raise through April and create an additional 100,000 new jobs.
Funny thing about pandemics – they cause online retail to explode in popularity when everyone is forced to stay inside. But it still takes people to pack, ship, and deliver all those orders of hand sanitizer and toilet paper all over the country.
While we have our intellectual debates during good times over tax rates and “fair share,” in a crisis guys like Bezos and Cuban can become overnight heroes to American families who’d ordinarily have nowhere else to turn for work. That’s uniquely American. That’s finding a way.
Tennessee-based discount chain Dollar General and Minnesota-based Target reconfigured operating hours at all of their stores “to allow the most susceptible customers in our communities the ability to shop during the first hour stores are open,” their news release said. In addition, Dollar General said they will close an hour early to “allow employees to clean and restock shelves, as well as for their health and wellbeing.”
That’s America finding a way.
In Ohio, a construction company donated their industrial masks to nurses and doctors in our hospitals. Michigan-based automakers offered to turn their plants into ventilator manufacturing facilities. Florida-based Carnival Corporation believes they can transform their vacations at sea into floating hospitals. A liquor distillery in Pennsylvania is turning their product into hand sanitizer they’ll then donate to those who most need it.
Where else but America?
The most hopeful story to date came from the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Bayer USA in a tweet this week. “Bayer today announced it is joining the U.S. Government’s fight against COVID-19 with a donation of three million tablets of the drug Resochin (choloroquine phosphate). New data, while limited, shows potential for the use of Reshochin in treating patients with COVID-19 infection.”
Could the widely used, fifty-year-old anti-malaria pill be our ticket to turning this nightmare around? It’s too soon to tell, but some early testing seems to suggest it’s highly possible. Should it be the miracle the world is waiting for, it can be only the private sector that could step in at that speed and volume to save the day.
Some tough, scary, confusing, sad, infuriating days are still ahead for our nation. Not everyone will return to normal. Not every story will end happily. But as a whole, our nation and the men and women who make her work in conjunction with the private sector and free markets will right this ship.
It’s what America always has always done and will always do. From Texas to New Jersey, from Washington to Michigan, from Ohio to Florida - we’re going to pitch our proverbial drive-through tent in the parking lot and we’ll fight through this until we win.
America will always find a way.