How one American suburbanite is trying to foster a healthy local economy

This is my neighborhood. We are people trying to get away from the city just enough to escape the rules and regulations, but not so much that we have drive too far to get to Target. We’re American consumers, blue-collar workers, homemakers, nurses, police officers, small business owners, veterans and retirees.

Listening to Wendell Berry this evening got me thinking about the culture I live in. The culture I’ve built. The economy I’m part of.

I buy clothes with tags that say they were made in Taiwan, Indonesia and China. I buy milk, ground beef and chicken thighs at Sam’s club. My neighbors, like me, probably give little thought to where our food and cloths come from. But we’re also a people trying to take the dirt on our little 1-2 acre plots of desert and produce something good from it.

My neighbor has a wonderful garden, milks dairy goats, makes cheese and all kinds of wonderful dishes from her small homesteadish place.

We, like most of our neighbors, have chickens, and very rarely have to buy eggs from the grocery store. We also have goats and make soap from the goat milk we’ve stored over the years.

In Berry’s essay, “Total Economy,” he writes how I, and those in my neighborhood have given proxy to corporations to provide ALL of our food, clothing and shelter, even our entertainment, education and care for our children, sick and elderly. And he’s right.

But I am seeking to live in a repentant posture from this proxy.

Why? Because I believe I was made by God to, “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28) and be my brothers keeper (Genesis 4:9), and love my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22:39), in a way that reflects God’s goodness.

I don’t believe I was made to let corporations do all of the subduing for me, do all the caring for my children, the sick in my community and the elderly in my life, so that I can do all the consuming.

I believe God made me to do the good, small and local work of all those efforts.

I can’t, of course, produce everything I need to live in this time and place on my little one acre lot. I can’t do all the caring for my children, or tend to the needs of al the elderly and infirm in my life. But I can do what I can do.

My next effort to push up through the concrete proxy I’ve given to corporations is to learn to plant something my family and I can eat, visit my neighbors, and humbly give thanks for those who make my clothes, package my chicken and care for my children and elderly neighbors.

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