It is something of a ritual every holiday season for local newspapers and Chambers of Commerce to remind folks to Shop Local. You know the mantra -- when you shop local, more of your money is reinvested in your community, which helps other local businesses, which creates greater diversity and helps the community maintain its unique appeal. Additionally, there's less travel thus less pollution. Better customer service, more support for the hometown charities, schools and extra-curriculars. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Don't get me wrong, these are valid and pertinent points. And shopping local is of paramount importance to a community like ours.
But we're a little past Christmas and the Shop Local rhetoric has been put in storage next to the plastic Santas. I understand that many retailers do a majority of their business over the holidays, but there's no reason to stop reminding folks that shopping local is a good idea.
Here's the good news. Unlike other goals, shopping local is easy to do. You can buy local every day of the year. It's as easy as pie, or lunch, or gas, or whatever it is you need today.
The harder and more crucial task is to think and act local in everything you do, not just where you shop. In reality, you need to become a local.
Trust me, I know how hard this can be. I am not from here. I came to Morris almost 30 years ago to attend the University of Minnesota, Morris. My plans were to get a degree and move on to bigger, better places. Like Fargo or St. Cloud. OK, I am a small town girl at heart.
In between then and now, I've found hundreds of reasons to become a local. The list includes the usual small town amenities: little crime, less traffic, close-knit community.
What that means in real life terms is having the city council take time to explain how they conduct business to every Boy Scout who is working on his Citizenship merit badge; having the mail carrier drop your mail at your office when the snowplow has made your mailbox inaccessible, winning a birthday cake from the local grocery store, or having the waitress meet you at your table with your favorite cocktail after work on Friday.
While I'd like to think that these are the rewards of having an important job, the truth is these are benefits of getting involved in my community. Every Boy Scout has the chance to learn about city government, the mail carriers really do put their best effort into delivering your mail and a good waitress is as much about a good tip as anything. There's still some measure of luck involved in the birthday cake, but I figure I've got 30 years of time put into this, the payoff is coming any day now.
I will admit to having some doubts over the years about staying here. More than once, I've encountered someone of the strong and vocal opinion that if I was any good at what I did, I'd have moved to somewhere bigger and better by now. It's really tempting at that point to ask when they're moving, but I usually hold my tongue. Also, it's a little unnerving to have people so much in your business that they think they know when you've screwed up before you do. Honestly folks, sometimes mistakes just happen and it's not about me or you or anyone else. If there weren't mistakes, we wouldn't learn anything new.
But that puts us back at being a local. There's a big difference between living here and being here. You have to show up, take part and create your place in the community. It's not enough just to have a local address, you have to have a local presence. Use the public library, attend a music concert, be a Scouting volunteer, stop by City Hall and find out which board needs a new member, attend a public meeting, listen to your hometown radio station, subscribe to your local newspaper. The list is endless.
Even folks from here can add a new dimension to life in their hometown by reaching out to the newcomers and inviting them to the places only locals know.
Why not try becoming a local?