Gallup did a survey this summer. It asked people how much confidence they had in various institutions. According to the survey, 36 percent said they trusted the presidency a great deal or quite a bit, compared with 22 percent who expressed confidence in big business, 20 percent who believed in organized labor and 10 percent who trusted Congress.
Small business, on the other hand, came in second with 65 percent of those surveyed saying it was trustworthy. The military, not surprisingly, was No. 1.
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While politicians have squabbled and Wall Street businesses have slashed jobs, Main Street has endured. Some small-business owners, instead of laying people off, have cut their own salaries to keep their full complement of employees. Others have dipped into savings or taken out second mortgages to keep their doors open or to avoid cutting back employee hours.
These are no small feats, but they largely go without acknowledgment or recognition. So when an opportunity to thank these men and women for their daily sacrifices arises, we should take it.
We find such an opportunity on Small Business Saturday.
The campaign to "shop small" on the Saturday after Thanksgiving started in 2010 as little more than an effort to give small businesses -- many struggling to get out of the red after a long recession -- a much-needed shot in the arm.
Since then, Small Business Saturday has become a powerful movement to give back to the brick-and-mortar establishments that line our Main Streets and keep our communities vibrant.
The concept is simple: Instead of sitting at home and ordering online or "one-stop shopping" at the nearest big-box store, make Main Street ground zero for your holiday shopping. Many local businesses around the county will be offering special deals and discounts throughout the day to encourage shoppers and to commemorate the day, so the incentive to "shop small" is all the greater.
It's strange to think that doing something so modest can have such a big impact, but research on last year's event showed that consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday spent a total of $5.5 billion with independent merchants that day.
The biggest incentive to shop small is that you are making your community stronger. You are helping to keep the people in your town or city employed so that they can support their families. Most importantly, you are demonstrating the value that you place on the small-business people who, by providing you and your community with unparalleled products and services, work hard to keep your trust each day.
During times like these, we could all benefit from a boost in our faith -- faith in the future, faith in our country, faith in our economy. Show your faith in America by starting your holiday season in a small business and "shop small" on Small Business Saturday.
• Kim Clarke Maisch is the Illinois state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation's leading small-business association. She lives in Springfield.