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Sue's Views -- 'Shop local' is about our community, not just deals

There have been ads for Christmas shopping on TV since July. I ordered wrapping paper and wreaths from schoolchildren a month ago. The city crews put the lights on the trees on Main Street this week. It seems all is on schedule for the holiday season.

So, it must be time for the "Shop Local" editorial piece.

I'm tempted to stop right there. How much more can really be said? This is a really simple idea.

But perhaps this simple mantra is a bit overused and, as a result, you've heard it so many times its meaning has been diminished.

Perhaps all of the cable shows and Web sites that promise to teach you how to pay less than retail have muddied the issue as people tighten their purse strings even more, whether because they're suffering economic setbacks, or in anticipation of them.

But that merely makes the call to support the local business more urgent, in my opinion.

The "value" in shipping local is as much about what you're supporting as what you're buying.

Hey, everybody loves a deal -- me included. But our local merchants aren't greedy. They set their prices to make a profit, not a windfall. In the case of an independent business, the small markup they take, combined with the fact that they aren't able to purchase in the same kind of bulk as a larger store, make it difficult, if not impossible, to compete across the board on items on sale at the big-box or chain stores.

The immediate response is that times are tough and we can't afford to buy stuff that isn't the absolute cheapest offered.

Trust me, that is a hard argument to counter.

But I have been broke -- really, really, really broke -- before. I know what it means to not be able to buy anything more than necessities. And I have on occasion left town to buy groceries with food stamps, just because my pride wouldn't allow me to shop local. Yes, there are times when you just have to do what you can to get by.

But there are those for whom "value" has come to mean "how much stuff can I get for my money," not "Could I do with fewer things so that I can invest a little more in what I value?"

To me, it's about more than trying to save a few dollars on the day-to-day provisions. It's about community. What would our town look like if the independent businesses and the jobs that they provide for our friends and neighbors went away?

Don't get me wrong. I've written more than one check to the WalMart-type stores. But it's the exception and not the rule. And I usually leave in a hurry, anxious to get away from the impersonal environment and disconnected crowds.

Our one-of-a-kind local businesses are what make Morris what it is and add immeasurably to our quality of life. Where we shop, where we eat and have fun -- all of it makes our community home.