Working in the tax industry, we accountants live on the front line of the financial stimulus delivery system. We work hard and fast to help our clients understand the daily changes and updates and how they will impact on their families, businesses and communities. There is undoubtedly pain and suffering out there and a clambering for the handouts, but there is also a humbling level of stoic community spirit and a surprising level of generosity and self deprivation.
I bring you the story today of a farmer who lives a simple and economic life. He called me this morning to ask me to not apply for any of the stimulus package relief for him as, in his words, others need it more than him.
We had a long conversation as some of his friends had been in contact with me to ask if I had been in contact with him lately as he had gone off their radar and they were worried about him. I had spoken to him surprisingly often as it turned out and my advice to his friends that self isolation was just another day on the farm for him and not to worry. They persevered and pestered me to get him to contact them, which I did.
I told him I could not claim his entitlements as requested but then discussed why he should claim the entitlements and use them as the government intended, which was to hire local tradesmen, buy local goods and put the funds back into his remote and regional community, where it was desperately needed. I suggested he could upgrade his car as the local dealer was desperate for sales or he could hire someone to dig a hole on his farm and then hire someone else to fill it in and thus give work to two locals (he laughed), or simply top up on his farm supplies from the local township. I even suggested if he was really pressed to find a good cause he could donate it to a good cause or a needy community member. In the end I persuaded him that it was his civic duty to take the funds and put them to the use they were intended and he was going to be in far better position to do that in his local community than the federal government.
I also asked him if he had spoken to his mates as asked and he said he had not yet done so. I told him to stop being so selfish and call them as they were worried and lonely too and needed his support in staying in contact. I said now was a good time while he had his phone in his hand and that I would call them myself in a couple of hours to make sure he had spoken to them.
The difference in his tone from the start of the call to the end was uplifting, he thanked me for making him laugh (about the two guys and the hole!) and we agreed to catch up again soon.
Hopefully the distribution by him of the stimulus package into his local community will be the mental “get well soon” pill that our humble and stoic Australians need. COVID-19 brings out some human qualities that we baby boomers have never seen in our lifetimes and thankfully are not experiencing it in the context of a military world war.
Silver linings are sometimes obscured by imperatives!