I applaud my neighbor. She probably didn’t have any agenda in mind. She wasn’t driving around with Shop Local bumper stickers on her car. But she shopped local and barely budged her carbon footprint. She got in her electric golf cart, drove the couple of blocks to my house, and bought some art. Thank you. After she left I realized that I could shop even more locally by looking inside my self.
Shop Local is a catch phrase that appeals to Chambers of Commerce and local merchants. Keep the money close to home and it doesn’t diffuse local wealth.
Shop Local also appeals to anti-corporate types because the money is more likely to go to small businesses and individuals. Want to reduce the need for social services? Help someone pay their bills by buying something they offer. You get a gift. They pay their mortgage.
Shop Local appeals to people who love the planet. Buying non-local usually means buying something that had to be shipped thousands of miles burning petroleum products all the way. Shopping local may mean buying socks made from wool sheared from local alpacas. (At least that’s the case in my neighborhood.)
My neighbor didn’t mention any of those things. I was convenient and what I have to offer is unique. She didn’t have to get in the car, hassle with traffic, find a parking space, wander through the mall, probably pay for an expensive below-average lunch, and then rewind her trip all the way back home. The cost of gas is enough to discourage that, and if she had to pay for parking the trip can cost more than the gift. Instead she spent a few minutes looking through my photos without distraction and was able to find two to choose from. We chatted as neighbors, not as merchant and customer, and then she left with two prints, and a coupon for a frame. She only paid for one print, because she didn’t know which one she wanted. I suggested she take both and then bring back the one she didn’t choose. She’s my neighbor. I can trust her. Thanks for keeping me in mind.
After she left I did the requisite artist happy dance, and got back to work. I was either finishing the first draft of my book about Scotland or was arranging my schedule to show art or teach classes. I can’t remember. Maybe I was so happy with the sale that the task didn’t register.
For most, Shop Local means shopping in the local stores. She’d taken it one step further by shopping in the neighborhood. I realized that I was taking Shop Local one step closer to home. I make gifts.
I’ve made some gifts ever since I started baking. In 1980 I moved to the Seattle area to work at Boeing. I left my family back in Pittsburgh to become an aerospace engineer, but brought along my mom’s recipes for Christmas cookies. Traveling during the holidays became laughable when six out of seven trips included being stranded in an airport or driving through ice storms. Instead of spending time worrying about the weather across the country, I established the ritual of making mom’s cookies. Eventually, I sent some home. She passed away years ago, and since then I’ve regularly baked cookies and fruitcakes (yes, by request) and shipped them to my family.
Regular readers know that this year my portfolio was hit by a triple whammy and has yet to recover. (Pardon me as I check again. Sigh. Sooner is better than later. Come on soon.) Watching shopping ads while waiting for The Daily Show to stream is the opposite of appealing. Recently when I had the money I didn’t dive into the mall maelstrom except as investment research. (Want to see what stores are busy? Sit in the mall and watch the shopping bags go by.) Seeing those ads now is actually somewhat repulsive. Unfortunately, I’ve even had to cut back on shopping locally. (Ah, to drop by the local wineries to do more than talk . . . ) Fortunately, I have a source, I am a source, of gifts. Either with baked goods, books, or photos, I can create gifts that by definition are personal and therefore meaningful. I even made my own Christmas cards. (Send me a note if you had a problem with the site. I’ll talk to them.)
Those are the gifts that are tangible, the gifts that can be wrapped and ribboned.
A friend pointed out something more valuable that they are providing to another friend, and he didn’t think of it as a gift but simply as something that must be done. They have a friend in need. For a short while, until their friend can get their financial feet beneath them, my friends are opening their house. They are giving her a room and a bit of space in their small house in North Seattle, and they are also giving her a part time job at their small business. Their truck needs brakes and tires. Any home repair is done with sweat in whatever weather Seattle produces. They are not financially wealthy. Yet, they are acting extremely local by letting someone into their house and their lives. (note to writers – pardon the pronouns, but discretion is more important than literary norms.)
People like that make me pause. What else can I do? I’ve thrown that spare blanket into my car. I won’t be giving as much to charities this year, but I can strive to be more charitable. I can rummage around within my self to see what I can do. Is there any better way to shop local?