By Jim Palmer
If we were able to take a time machine back just 40 years ago, we would be amazed at how much has changed with our regular routine as a society. Back then, everyone got their food, clothes and supplies from stores in town or a nearby city. Most picked up the local newspaper to find out what was going on in their community. If they listened to the radio, it was local radio. In the evening, most would tune in for a half-hour brief recap on the national and world news. For most people, this quick recap or the reading of the morning newspaper was about the only time people took themselves outside of “living local.”
Oh, how times have changed.
Today, almost every trend is pushing people away from living local. Nearly everyone is buying online from big corporations and some people buy everything online. More and more people are listening to satellite radio with national DJs and national advertisers. And more people are watching strictly national cable news, and they watch it much more than 30 minutes a day. In fact, I can guarantee you there are people in your neighborhood who have lived for months without buying anything in their community besides maybe gas. And they probably couldn’t tell you the name of the mayor, what show is playing at the local theater, how the local sports teams are doing this season, or what new shops have opened in their town this year. They have no clue what is going on in their community, their county or their state, and they are not supporting any of their neighbors. This is happening... and it is happening far more than we realize.
We have all heard the motto, “Buy Local.” By now, we should all know the advantages of shopping locally. When you buy local, you help small businesses. These small businesses not only pay their employees, they also spend money at other local businesses. So when you support local businesses, you help create jobs for others in your community and keep the money in the pockets of local businesses and their employees. In short, it makes your community much more vibrant and healthy.
I wholeheartedly support the idea of shopping local, but I wish we could all take it a step further. Even if we all shopped locally, there is still a big disconnect happening. I would like to see more of an effort of everyone to “live local.” Not only buying local, but connecting with your community and your neighbors in a more personal way.
The following are some examples of ways to better connect with your community...
• Read your local newspaper. You can buy a subscription or read it for free at your local library. You will learn about government actions that could affect your daily life, services that could help you (now or down the road), entertainment in your area and new businesses/services in your area. You will also get to know people in your community through the articles, photos and the letters to the editors. It is information that connects you to your community. I have always been a strong proponent of local newspapers and it is hard to see some newspapers struggle/close their doors. Your community will not be the same without your local newspaper, so do what you can to support them.
• Seek out volunteer opportunities. Every community has numerous volunteer opportunities. You just need to ask or look for opportunities. Volunteering is a great way to connect with your community and is a feel-good experience for all that do it.
• Join a service club. Membership is down at nearly every service club in every community across the country. The stronger a service club is, the more it can do to promote the community. It is also a good way for its members to connect, network and ultimately brainstorm ideas to improve the community.
• Find a space to meet others. Is there a place in your town where people congregate for coffee and conversation in the morning? Maybe it’s the coffee shop in town, or the senior center, or the bakery or the bar that serves breakfast. Wherever it is, these interactions are good for the soul (as long as everyone can keep their political views in check and be respectful) and they directly build a sense of community. Plus, it gives you something to look forward to every day.
• Listen to regular radio. Even if you have satellite radio, make an effort to jump on to local radio every day. Radio is not just for entertainment -- it can help connect you with businesses, services and, ultimately, your community.
• Get to know your neighbors. This may be one of the most important ones of all. I know some friends who have lived in a community for 10+ years and still don’t even know the names of their neighbors. Some don’t see the value in knowing their neighbors -- but anyone who has or once had a strong connection with their neighbor knows the value. A good neighbor is more than just a convenience when you are short a cup of sugar... they are added security, someone to watch your dog on short notice, or someone who volunteers to shovel your driveway when you are sick. And the more neighbors you know, the more help is there when you need it... and at some point, we all need it.
Why did I decide to write about this subject? Well, I have seen the disconnect grow in communities in recent years. But also, I have experienced it personally. It sorta happens over time and you don’t even realize it’s happening.
I watch, listen and read about less local and state news than I ever have, I order more things online and I volunteer a little less than I did just a few years ago.
This is the time of year for reflection and resolutions. And I have a few resolutions lined up for the new year. One of those resolutions is to do a better job at living local in 2022. How about you? Are you ‘living local’?