“We are still open,” she said to me with an unsure grin, eyes darting around the pharmacy trying to see what cannot be seen…the future.

Parul Patel has worked at CVS Pharmacy on Park Springs Blvd in Arlington for 17 years.

I know, because she used to develop and print all… and I mean ALL of our pictures for our yearbook and for our newspaper here. That was back in the days when we cut out black boxes, glued them onto a lay-out sheet perched on top of a light-box, and then marked them to correspond with the correct photo.

That is how printing used to be done before the digital age.

Now, standing 8 feet in front of this familiar smiling face, because the corporate protocol asked them to mark a 6-foot-tape barrier in front of the cash register, and 2 extra feet because…well because; she asked if I wanted to sign up for a new rewards program for $5 a month because… “I know you- you shop here a lot, so why not?” she asks grinning at me.

Bright yellow tape forms a make-shift barrier between the customer and the person working the cash register at CVS Pharmacy on Park Springs Blvd and Green Oaks in Arlington. This doesn’t stop the people who work there from reaching out in kindness to their customers.

After laughing and reminiscing with her for a moment, I asked Patel and her store manager Renee Morley how customers are responding to them during this outbreak of COVID19.

“Our customers here have been very nice,” said Morley. “We have the best customers here, but I do have Branch Managers reporting to me they get cursed out often by customers.”

Patel, who is usually the first face I see when I walk into the CVS said, “Angry customers don’t bother me because everyone is stressed right now, but most people are really good.”

Her smile returns.

A different day, a different industry is affected.

“I saved one,” my husband, Greg Hall said on a phone call to me, choking back emotion. “I have to call you back.”

Two minutes later, Greg, who serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Spring Creek Companies, a family-owned restaurant company, called me back to explain that he was referring to them saving an employee from being laid off.

The restaurant industry has been hit particularly hard. Some estimates predict that 5 to 7 million U.S. restaurant workers will be laid off by June.

Spring Creek Companies operate 34 Spring Creek Barbeques, 10 Mexican Inn Cafe’s, and 1 Shady Oak Barbeque & Grill, and a Catering and Delivery company. Like every restaurant in America, they have had to take action to get through these unprecedented times.

Greg said that they have been forced to temporarily close their Mexican Inn Café company and a few Spring Creek Barbeque locations as well. Meanwhile they have re-formatted all the Spring Creek Barbeque locations to Curbside pick-up service and are emphasizing call-in, online and third-party delivery along with their own delivery service.

Lee Sanchez, General Manager of the Mansfield Spring Creek Barbeque stands as far back as possible and hands a guest their food. Sanchez and other employees must wear gloves, and have hand sanitizer at the curbside. Customers now must line up in cars and not actually walk inside the restaurants in order to be served.

“We are so fortunate to be a family-owned company,” said Greg. “I have witnessed what I would call pure acts of selflessness, sacrifice, and in some cases heroism from hourly staff, office personnel, operations managers and leadership all the way up to the ownership. I am equally amazed and gratified by the outreach from our loyal guests and partners in the community.”

Hall, explained that many customers driving through the make-shift drive up service marked out by orange cones or hand-made posters because many sign-print companies are closed, encourage the Spring Creek team with things like, ‘We are so thankful you are open!’ and ‘You have supported our school/church/fundraiser, and we want to support you now.’

Many schools and churches agree that Spring Creek Barbeque’s Spirit Night Fundraiser has been a big benefit to them for years. Spring Creek would identify event nights where 20% of their entire proceeds would be donated to them.

Area Manager Mark Boleng and Isabella Roberts take and deliver guest orders outside the Spring Creek Barbeque in Burleson. They use the black box to keep orders hot.

Some PTA’s have decided to return the favor by encouraging their parents and families to go to Spring Creek and purchase take-out on selected nights.

“It is community partners like these that are going to help us to get back to full strength, and get the rest of our Spring Creek family back to work,” Hall said.

When Greg comes home, the emotion of the day is written all over his face, and the powder from his gloves is clinging all over his clothes, because he changes gloves so many times as he visits locations, drops off supplies and tries to encourage his team.

Next, I am quickly brought to the medical front lines with a plea from a close friend, Toni Breese, on Facebook, asking us to pray for her son-in-law, who is working in the ER at Baylor Scott and White in Temple.

She said he does not have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and has to use the same mask over and over. Then, when this ER doctor comes home, his wife does not have enough cleaning supplies to disinfect everything from his keys to his shoes, and she asks; can we please pray for them and all the other doctors?

“I know you hear about it on the news-but when the words of concern come out of your daughter’s mouth, it sure makes things more real,” writes Breese in her post.

Finally, I receive a text from my neighbor that simply says, “Hi there, we left something for you in the chair on your porch.”

My neighbor, Cindi McCreary hand-sewed double-sided face masks for us, and left it as a surprise along with a fun note on my porch!

I go out front for the first time all day, to find two hand-sewn face masks in a Ziploc bag with a funny note. One mask is made with camo material for my husband, and the other one is spotted with colorful dogs… for me…tears come because of this precious act of kindness.

She doesn’t know how often Greg is in the public and needs a mask. She doesn’t know I go to take care of my 81-year-old mother, who is quite isolated right now, and I could use the mask to protect her. Only I, and one other person see mom during this time for her own protection.

This disease is causing such isolation!

This is what I hate!

The masks will be used, and no; the hospitals require medical grade N95 masks, so these won’t work for them, but my neighbor, Cindi McCreary does make these, and she donates them to local nursing homes and “wherever there’s a need.” She also volunteers for “Pillow Ministry” at Baylor Hospital.

This is what I love!

People coming together and using their gifts, work, and talents to help others and glorify all that is good.

Without struggle, there is no progress. What is God trying to teach us now? Let’s ask him, and then learn it.

Jesus calms the wind and the waves in Mark 4:35-39. In those four verses, he does what no man can do. Then, in verse 40, “He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” His disciples’ response in verse 41, “They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

This is what I cling to!

God has this.

Jesus loves us!

If you haven’t heard already, please know that it is in Him, OUR creator that we live and have our being, and He wants us to live with him in Heaven some day.

His message is that He knows we mess up, and He knows we need a savior, and that is why He sent us one in his son, Jesus.

If we believe this, then we are saved by faith alone, and by His grace alone.

His message is so simple, yet so powerful, and so needed. Maybe He is shaking things up, so that we turn to Him. Struggle…progress.

The Bible offers much to cling to. Mark 4:35-41 is pictured above.

What are we learning now?

  1. We are still open.
  2. We need each other’s support.
  3. Use our gifts and talents to help others.
  4. God cares.

About the author: Stephanie Hall teaches Journalism and Yearbook at Grace Prep Academy in Arlington, TX. She has taught there almost 15 years. For questions or comments, she can be reached at shall@graceprep.org

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1 thought on “We are still open

  1. Oh my goodness what a wonderful spot of inspiration you shared in this article. So many are hurting and feeling low, but there is a light of joy in the darkness if we are able to see it through our tears. Stephanie, thank for the reminder that we are not alone, God is a “way maker” and where there’s a will, Thanks to HIM, there’s a way! 🙂

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