The following comes from the writer’s blog, IGORoamandreport.wordpress.com.
We all yearn for a sense of community. Basic human nature tells us to feel comfortable around, welcomed and valued by the neighbors of our villages. We need to feel a sense of attachment to improve the places we live in. To feel the value of giving back to our communities, however, we first have to feel valued by our communities. Building sustainable cities and supporting local business starts with caring for and being taken care of by our neighborhood.
In the heart of Boston, Jamaica Plain is unique; it feels like a small town within a sprawling city. I only recently moved to JP from Indiana, but I really like it here. I wake up to birds chirping. There is plenty of green space, and the air is cleaner. The residents are laid- back liberals of all shapes and colors. Main Street (Centre Street) survives on local business—you won’t find the likes of Chipotle or KFC here. Most vendors, especially their signs, have an old-school feel that dates back to the 1960s and 1970s. Overall, the community prides itself on keeping its identity alive.
JP serves as a wonderful example of a functioning, progressive and sustainable community. As corporate chains swallow up mom-and-pops all over America, more people around the country are voicing the importance of keeping it local. The Detroit Community Initiative is just one example of people coming together to improve their lives by rebuilding their city’s ghostly neighborhoods into sustainable communities. In a tight-knit community, people watch out for and support each other, reducing crime and spurring local business.
The extra price of buying local, however, can stand in the way of most consumers, including me. On one hand, I want to support local business. On the other hand, I’m poor. Why then do JP residents pay the extra dollar for local goods? If you went to the Wake Up the Earth Festival May 1, you will understand.
The Wake Up the Earth was the best free festival I have ever attended: Five hours of music on two stages kicked off by a wacky only-in-JP parade and flanked by a potpourri of local caterers as well as a variety of non-profits looking for volunteers. Make no mistake, it is awesome.
And to whom did I owe the pleasure of attending Wake Up the Earth? None other than my neighbors, the vendors on Centre Street that helped sponsor it. As I looked past the music, the food and the people, I experienced a moment of clarity. Then and there, a blueprint for sustainable community unfolded before me. On a spiritual level, I was imbedded in my new neighborhood.
We buy local and stay local here in JP. When we look out for our neighbors, they look out for us. When we spend an extra few dollars at the co-op, they bring us community festivals. I left Wake Up the Earth a changed man. The value of community had penetrated my soul, and I felt honored to be a resident of Jamaica Plain.