'I want to stay in this and be ready when the lights come back on'
Garry’s story | COVID-19 cancelled everything
“I’m an ex-copper. I was in the police force for 20 years and then I sustained an on-duty injury, which meant I couldn’t carry out duties. So I started a bus company from scratch. We called it Cumberland Coach Lines. At the beginning of 2003, we bought one vehicle and we did one job, for a local school … and by the end of that year, we had six vehicles. Our customers were happy, so they told other schools. It was very relational. By the beginning of 2020, we had a fleet of 21 coaches, and our turnover was really good. I was employing 24 drivers, mostly casuals, all of them great drivers, really good guys.”
“Then, on Monday, March 16, everything [was] cancelled. We went from doing 60 transfers a day to doing nothing at all … because of the virus.
“We haven’t turned a wheel since March 17.
“In the past, I’ve taken a ‘Joseph in Egypt’ strategy, and put a bit away for the hard times. We have some reserves. And the government has provided the JobKeeper strategy, which is good. I’ll be able to feed my drivers and keep them connected to the business. But it’s still hard. The coaches are all sitting in the depot. We have de-registered two thirds of them. The standing costs are too high. I need to somehow prevent wastage and pay all the other expenses, the depot, insurance, inspections.
“The hardest part is not knowing when the lights are going to turn back on. We might not get any return until March 2021. If the schools do go back, they won’t be in a hurry to do a full program of sport and excursions. They’ll be trying to get the kids to sit in chairs again. How are we going to manage for a year?
“I don’t normally panic. I’m trying to stay pragmatic. I’m trying to recognise what I can control and what I can’t control. I’m doing the best I can with what I have. And if I’m not in control, then God must be in control. I have to trust him and remember that he’s in charge. I have to be faithful with what he’s given me.
“At the moment, he’s reminding me to stay calm. I think that sometimes, we try and blame God for everything. But there is human error and failings and ignorance. It’s not God’s fault. Psalm 55:22 says, ‘Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.’ And Psalm 56:3-4 says, ‘When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.’ I like that.
“When we share our burdens with God (and with each other), it makes it feel more manageable. I find this whole thing very tiring, but Matthew 11:28-30 reminds me to ‘go to the Lord when I am weary and burdened, and he will give me rest.’ So I want to be a good employer and help my staff. I feel accountable, like in Colossians 4:1 where Paul says, ‘Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.’
“I want them to know that we’re in this together. And it helps me to talk about it – it feels like a burden shared. In some ways, it would be easier for me to shut the doors, walk away and go and play golf. But I’m not going to do that. I want to stay in this and be ready when the lights come back on. I want to come back out the other end with my team intact.”