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Even socially distanced, we’re all in this together

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was a sweet, simple, urgent plea.

“We could use your help,” read the post by the folks at Elixir Boutique Chocolates, one of the many small businesses in Albuquerque – and everywhere around the world – affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elixir was in trouble. March is the company’s most lucrative month, and its six employees had stockpiled extra truffles, spicy brittle and its famous “Kiss of the Reaper” Carolina Reaper Peppers Timmy Krack Korn Puffs to sell at big events such as the 32nd annual Rio Grande Spring Show and the Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Fest.

Then the coronavirus crashed the party and all those events and all those potential profits melted away like chocolate in a child’s pocket.

“Since our products are hand crafted without preservative they have a very short shelf life and will not survive until our other scheduled events,” the Elixir message on Facebook said. “We will most likely have to lay off all our employees by the end of this week since we rely on our sales events to bring in funds for our payroll.”

So all Elixir could hope for was that enough people would see its social media SOS and order enough mercy chocolate to keep the company afloat.

And so it has gone in this strange new world of ours as communities struggle to find love in the time of coronavirus – or at least enough kindness to help one another get by.

Last Sunday, I had a drink with three good friends, knowing that we will likely not see each other again in person for the duration. I wondered how we would all fare in our personal distancing cocoons. But I especially wondered how the employees of that restaurant would fare under strict new health rules put in place because of COVID-19 that all but shuts down food establishments and shutters us in our homes.

So I left a $20 tip on a $16.20 tab and I wished them well.

Leaving a larger tip is an idea spreading on social media as a way to mitigate the damage that is already manifesting itself among struggling restaurants because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Tammy Hanks of Albuquerque calls it the Ubuntu Pledge, derived from an African word that speaks to the connectedness and kindness that exists – or should – between each of us. Put simply, the pledge asks everybody to leave an extra $10 on top of their usual tip anywhere employees rely on tips.

“Ten dollars won’t break us, and it might make the difference in service workers being able to pay the rent or feed the kids during this crisis,” Hanks wrote. “Because we are all in this together.”

We are all in this together apart now, disconnected, socially distanced and self-isolated, all for the greater good of “flattening the curve” of coronavirus infestation for all of us. And yet just as we come apart we are coming together, reaching out to others to help as we can in these trying times.

NextDoor groups have become clearing houses for those who can help and those who need it. Facebook has also seen a rise in groups like New Mexico Parents Mutual Aid and Covid19 Resources for East Mountains dedicated to lending a hand and providing information.

Churches and companies and local governments are also trying to offer aid. Sandia Baptist Church’s College and Career group has young, healthy adults willing to help seniors with grocery runs, yardwork and other errands. The city of Albuquerque’s Health and Social Service Centers are accepting donations for residents who cannot pay their rent. And Blissful Spirits Hot Yoga in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, though both have closed their doors for now, are offering free yoga classes streaming live on Facebook.

On our Journal website, we will continue to provide you with ways you can help and ways you can find help. And I will continue to share your stories and your ideas here and on my own social media.

We are social creatures being faced with a loss of our society. But from our homes we can still reach out through our laptops, cellphones and tablets. We can use social media as our town square and our megaphones. We can reach out if we need help, reach back if we can help. And while we’re at it, we can stop hoarding toilet paper and share it with those who need a roll or two.

We can be helping hands, washed thoroughly with soap and water.

And we should. We are each now in our own lifeboats, but we are all adrift in the same sea.

As for the folks at Elixir Chocolates, their social media SOS worked – at least for the short term. So many online orders came in that it will take two weeks for them to catch up. That’s pretty sweet.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. You can reach Joline at 823-3603, or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg.


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