The other day I went to meet a new friend in town. She was new to the area and I bought us a small vegetarian pizza to share. Then I went to the grocery store and bought some tea bags and peanut butter and jelly. I also stopped at the thrift store to chat with the woman who works there and while I was there, I bought two books. Then, on the way home, I bought two peaches, two cucumbers, and an onion from the farmer selling produce at the intersection.
After my excursions, I was feeling happy. It was nice to be out and about in my neighborhood, chatting with people and feeling connected. But I noticed I was also feeling a bit anxious because rent was due and money was tight. I’m doing much better financially than I had been, but I confess I am still faced with these kinds of choices regularly. Do I buy some groceries or do I save every penny until rent is paid? Do I pay ten dollars to allow my tired body to soak in the warm healing waters of the hot springs, or do I wait because my cell phone bill is due? Sometimes I choose the conventional wisdom and I scrimp and save every dollar. But sometimes I realize that way of living focuses on lack and it backfires. So instead I choose a path of faith. I trust that it is okay to take care of myself and that more money will flow to me.
On this particular day, I had to talk myself through the anxiety I felt. I realized 1) I was hungry and I needed lunch, 2) it felt good to treat someone who was new in town because people had also been nice to me when I was new in town, 3) my larder was fairly empty and I needed those staples at the grocery store, 4) the thrift store supports the young people of the area, and 5) I was more than happy to support a local farmer.
I also realized (and this was the biggie) that in spending a bit of money (and time) in my neighborhood, I was supporting my neighbors! So really, I wasn’t being indulgent so much as neighborly.
This may sound like justification, but there is truth in it as well. When we support the stores in our neighborhood, we support our neighbors. When I went to the cafe, I supported the owners who own it and I supported the cook who made my pizza and the waitress who served me. When I went to the grocery store, I supported the people who own it, the people who work there, as well as the people who raised the crops, manufactured the products, packaged the products, and transported the products. When I went to the thrift store, I supported the non-profit which runs it and, in turn, the youth of our area which it supports. When I do my shopping locally, I support my neighbors.
After my next bill is paid, I intend to buy some soap from the local woman who makes soaps from natural materials and I will buy candles from the local woman who makes candles from natural materials. These I will buy from the new little store run by the sweet young couple I met about a month ago. They live very simply in harmony with the Earth and I very much want to support them.
From the outdoor market on Saturday I might buy something small simply because I know that everyone there is trying to make a living, pay their bills, and support their family. We are all doing our best, offering our gifts to the world and trying to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. We need to support one another.
I have always loved the bumper sticker “Think globally, act locally.” We all make the world a better place when we support our neighbors – not only with our money, but with our time, our hugs, our smiles.
One of the local women who has been kindest to me (and many, many others as well!) was for many, many years a single mother struggling to both make the money to support her kids as well as be a present, loving, and wise mother. She knows what it’s like. It is not easy to survive as a single person without a highly lucrative career. I am grateful I don’t have the responsibility of supporting children; I have enough on my plate just supporting me!
In this community there are many people – both coupled and single, doing their best to raise their children. They all deserve our support. Back in the days when our ancestors lived tribally, all the women of the village looked after all the children and all the men hunted for food. Now, somehow we’ve become more isolated and all the burden for the care and survival of children falls on one or two parents. How did it get this way? The children are the future and it would be both wise and kind if we all took a more active interest in helping them (and their parents) with our money, our time, and our love.
And what about our elders? How many of our elders now live alone in isolation or just as bad, live in nursing homes but still with that feeling of being isolated, put aside, unloved? How can we be more neighborly to our elders? Is there an elder person whose lawn looks a bit high and scraggly? Chances are they have arthritis and can’t move so well. Chances are their social security check doesn’t stretch far enough to include paying someone to mow their lawn. Let’s offer to cut their lawn. Or perhaps they don’t drive anymore and need help getting groceries and out to doctor’s appointments. Let’s all chip in and help our elders.
Out in the Midwest and West where the towns are few and very far between, being neighborly is essential. Without good neighbors, people could literally die. People need help bringing in the crops, making it through blizzards, birthing their babies. But there are certainly needs in the city as well. What about the woman who is working two jobs to pay the bills and her child gets ill and she realizes if she stays home for the child she risks losing her job? What about the widower who is incapacitated by grief and has never learned to prepare food for himself? We all need help now and then.
Let’s help each other out. Having wonderful neighbors often means being a wonderful neighbor. Until one has lived all alone with no one to care, one cannot imagine how big a blessing good neighbors are. We cannot take care of the whole world; no one can take care of seven billion people. But surely we can help our neighbors now and then.
I thank God for the blessing of good neighbors. May your kindnesses be repaid a hundred thousand times.
Blessings to each one of you.