Historical events usually generate unique responses, oftentimes providing a useful solution, designed to fill a need. The lingering COVID-19 pandemic has given us such a solution: curbside service delivery. Perhaps, like many others all over the country, you showed up at your neighborhood supermarket one day to find signs saying “Pickup Here.” At first the operation may have looked a little clumsy–like trial-and-error–but now it has become the going thing, as retail stores and grocery chains, even restaurants, have all adopted the new sales strategy, created to fill a perceived need. One outlet has put a classy spin on its service by calling it Curbside Concierge. Apparently, it’s possible to become sophisticated in a hurry.
The thrust toward curbside service got underway quite early in the pandemic. Several months ago at the supermarket where I shop, I noticed employees going from aisle to aisle pushing carts with bags attached to them. As they went, they dipped into bins and reached up on shelves, picked out items, scanned the prices, and placed the items in the bags on the cart. I watched them and wondered whether they were removing spoiled or outdated food. I needed to know so that I could avoid picking up spoiled food items. Curious Kate that I am, I finally asked one of the employees doing the sorting what she was doing. She explained that she was selecting items for pickup service. Now I can watch them go about their job of filling orders without becoming alarmed that I might be unknowingly purchasing spoiled food.
Curbside service may be the only positive outcome of the pandemic. A New York Times Business article states that curbside service continues people’s love affair with their cars, giving them a chance to drive even though they don’t go into the store. The Times article reports that Walmart employs 74,000 workers in over 3,000 stores just to pick up groceries on orders and take them out to the customers’ cars anchored at curbside. Also, the article states that Target’s business in drive-up service grew more than 700% in the last quarter.
My neighborhood library has gotten into the curbside delivery business also. I called in and ordered a couple of books, and when I drove up to the front entrance, I phoned the desk as I had been instructed to do, and a librarian came out to my car—masked, of course—had me read off my library card number and then placed the books in my car trunk (instead of handing them to me). Simple and easy. This same kind of convenient service occurred with my COVID-19 test. I drove to the designated place and remained in my car. A nurse came and stuck a swab into my nostril, and I was on my way.
Curbside service is an innovation that speaks well for the human capacity to find ways to survive. It’s a development that teaches us about being resilient in response to challenges in our personal lives, showing us that we can find new ways to address life’s inevitable problems and setbacks, making new paths through, over, or around adversity instead of sitting around bemoaning our fate. The adage “Necessity is the mother of invention” is often repeated glibly, but it has proven true in many situations: in the M&M chocolates that melt in your mouth and not in your hands, in tea bags, Kleenex, ball point pens and a host of other items familiar to us. And the pandemic is proving the saying to be true by giving us curbside service to teach us flexibility, that we can adjust to challenging circumstances and even thrive.
A form of curbside service has gained great popularity among churches. The weekly service is streamed a la curbside, and congregants are able to pick up and go for another week. An entire service is packaged for them. Some individuals have expressed concern that churchgoers may become too comfortable with this kind of service delivery. With the ease of worshiping at curbside, they fear people may not feel the need to get back into the pews. But the energy of fellowshipping with like believers, the sense of belonging that one gets from being in church, and the joy of sharing in person their love for Christ will take them back into the sanctuary. It will be somewhat like a reunion.
In the card aisle at the store recently, I smiled when I saw the words on one card. I bought it, and I share the words with you.
There should be
For things like
Let us pray to get past this period of social isolation and into a time when, once again, peace, healing, and hugs will be available, not at curbside but in our families, among our friends, and within the walls of our houses of worship.
A big “Thank you” to some of my generous and supportive readers who have ordered copies of my books and had me autograph them to be given to their friends. I so-o-o-o much appreciate your doing this. I hope many others of you will join these wonderful readers. Send a copy of one of my books to a friend or relative as a “Thank you” for a kindness, or as a birthday gift, or just to say “I enjoyed reading this book. I think you will also.” I hope you’ll do it today while you’re getting the gentle nudge from me. Thanks a lot.