Find the Helpers. And help them.

pooles diner raleigh, where to eat raleigh
Photo by Mike Robson

“The people who show up for you in a time of crisis aren’t always your best friends, or your closest family members, but they are the best kind of people.”

When my friend Nora McInerny (more commonly known as a bestselling author and successful podcast host) said this at an event I hosted in the fall, I immediately felt my head nodding. 

In recent weeks, as we have seen the small food businesses we all love take significant hits due to COVID-19 I have found myself thinking of Nora’s words. 

When my wife died in the spring of 2013, our family had a remarkable amount of people show up for us in ways big and small. The hospital waived our medical bills. Nearly 1,000 people waited in the receiving line at the funeral to pay their respects. We received cards, notes, and books from around the world. 

All of these moments of grace lifted our spirits tremendously in the face of the darkest time of our life.

But we also had people we did not know show up for us.

The night before the funeral I had my haircut at a local salon that opened up just for us — and they refused to accept payment. We walked next door to the Player’s Retreat, an iconic spot in Raleigh, and had the first full meal I had managed to get down all week — and the check never came.

More moments of grace would occur in the weeks ahead. 

A well known Chef reached out to say that while she didn’t know our family, she wanted to cook a special meal for me. A group of us went in on the anniversary of mine and Jamie’s engagement — and we had enough food for 10 people. I think I was full for roughly three days.

Checks continued to disappear. Appetizers and drinks continued to appear.

Great food doesn’t solve our problems, but great food paired with good friends is enough to take us away from our problems for just a little while. 

A warm bowl of pork belly soup from Bida Manda, chicken tandoori from Garland, a heaping plate of mixed greens paired with chicken pate and a glass of wine from Poole’s. All of these meals defined the very route of my path forward in life.

And when we decided to honor Jamie’s memory by raising funds to support the causes we had both worked so hard on during her life, these same Chefs showed up time and time again. We had instituted one rule — we would cover their actual costs — but all of them donated their time, talent, and likely more food than we paid for in the years ahead.

They showed up for us — as they have showed up for so many nonprofit causes in our community time and time again.

And now in the age of COVID-19, it is long past time that we (yes, all of us!) show up for them. Many of our beloved restaurants have temporarily closed their doors, virtually all of them have had to lay off staff, and a few of them are now transitioning towards making food available for takeout or delivery.

In the face of this pandemic, many of us have been asking what we can do to support small businesses, help those in need, and do our own small part to make a difference for those around us.

Here is a quick list:

  1. Buy gift cards as often as you can. When you make a meal or a drink at home, buy a gift card to support a local food-based business. Those are dollars they can bank right now to cover bills.
  2. Support service industry workers. A number of opportunities have cropped up ranging from the Triangle Restaurant Workers Relief Fund here in NC to a fantastic service that lets you tip service industry workers directly: https://serviceindustry.tips/
  3. Support policy change that benefits the entire industry through this national effort: https://www.saverestaurants.co/
  4. Order takeout or delivery through local restaurants. Cureat is developing lists of open restaurants in cities across the country. These are vital dollars that allow the restaurants to pay essential staff and bills.
  5. Donate to your local food bank. The need for hunger relief will spike as hundreds of thousands of people lose their jobs in the weeks ahead.

None of us can solve all of the problems, but all of us can contribute towards those who have fed us when we were grieving, provided us with toasts when we were celebrating, and gave us a gathering place to assemble with those people who make our life worth living.

They have shown up for us. Now we must show up for them.


Nation Hahn is the Chief Growth & Optimist at EdNC.org. You can follow him on CurEat for his restaurant and bar recommendations.

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