Strategic reserve

We’ve been reading of many shortages in this time of social distancing. A lot of the media has brought attention to shores that have empty shelves where the toilet paper once was. We are told that people are hoarding toilet paper. More seriously, supplies of personal protective gear are short in hospitals and medical centers across the country. Our health system is fairly dependent on disposables when it comes to infection control. Gowns, masks, gloves and in some cases even face shields are made to be used once and disposed. There is also a shortage of respirators, especially in the larger cities where the outbreak has been more severe.

Personally, and at the church, we aren’t currently experiencing any shortages. Occasionally, when I make a trip to the store to stock up on groceries, I see empty shelves and from time to time, I have trouble finding a particular item. Yesterday it was mint tea. With Susan avoiding caffeine as much as possible and me cutting back to just an occasional cup of black tea, we drink quite a bit of peppermint tea. Since we drink a lot, we have an ample supply on hand, but I put it on my shopping list only to find that the store was remarkably short of tea. I know another place that probably has a good supply, but so far, we’re doing fine.

What I did find at the store yesterday was toilet paper. They had a whole aisle filled up with what seemed like a usual supply. We didn’t have it on the list and I know we have plenty at home, but I purchased a single package anyway. It just seemed to make sense. I didn’t get the great big 36-roll package, however. I don’t want to be selfish. Others may need it more than I.

Years ago, I read an article about the strategic reserves that the federal government keeps of some commodities. Oil is kept in huge tank farms spread out across the nation so that in the event of some national emergency there will be enough to keep the military in business. There have been times when part of the strategic reserve has been sold on the general market and it is significant enough to affect the price of oil.

Apparently, however, we don’t keep a strategic reserve of personal protective gear, or respirators. We may, however, have a strategic reserve of toilet paper. Instead of having it in huge government warehouses, it is dispersed in the closets and storerooms of millions and millions of homes. If we really reached a crisis point, I wonder if people would go to their neighbors and ask for a spare roll. I’m thinking that it would work. After all, we have extra rolls in hour home. The church has been consuming less with the preschool not in session and no large group meetings at the church. We’ve got some cases in the shed that constitute a kind of reserve.

That got me to thinking about all of the extra things I have around my house that I could contribute if social distancing and stay at home orders persist.

I have a lot of books. And I’m willing to loan and even give them away to those who are bored and looking to read. A lot of them are solid academic theological works and may be boring to some readers, but I’ve got novels and history and biography as well. If I knew of any neighbors in need, I’d be glad to have them take a few.

I’m really well stocked with scraps of wood. I’m not sure what would constitute a shortage, but if we ever do have one, I’ve got pieces of 2x4 as short as 3 or 4 inches and as long as a couple of feet. I hate to throw out good wood that can be used for blocks. I have a good supply of cedar strips cut and milled for canoe or kayak construction. I may have enough to make a whole boat. I have quite a few planks. You never know when you need to get something from one place to another. If we have a national or regional shortage of wood scraps, I stand ready to donate.

For some reason, I have a really healthy supply of copier paper. We have a printer at home that we used to use a lot, but which gets less and less usage now that we send more documents electronically. Yesterday I went to get a bit more paper for our printer and discovered that we have nearly a full case of paper. I bought it because it was way cheaper by the case than by the ream. Now we have a lot more than we will use in a year or perhaps longer. We’d be glad to share.

I’m sitting pretty when it comes to empty plastic containers. We purchase yogurt and cream cheese and cottage cheese and sour cream in tubs. I save them because they make good mixing cups for epoxy. But it appears I have saved way too many. They are headed for the recycling bin before long, but if there is some kind of shortage, I still have them in stock.

I have one of the larger collections of t-shirts of anyone I know. I have t-shirts from fund-raising walks and from organizations I have supported and from youth events and from various events. I have “tough enough to wear pink” t shirts and black t-shirts with advertisements in bright colors all over the backs. I have t-shirts with dates from events in the 1990’s and 2000’s that aren’t worn out because I have so many that I don’t wear them often. I’ve got all sorts of colors, but most are either L or XL when it comes to size. I stand ready to donate if we have a shortage.

I might even have some useful stuff around here if I look. If you’re running short of anything, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!