Tuesday, June 19, 2018

When We Take "Keeping it Local" Too Far

In the past few years, I've noticed a big push from friends, neighbors, and small businesses to "keep it local." In an effort to bolster the local economy and support our communities, people and businesses encourage us to keep our dollars in our area. This makes a sense to me. It also leads me to think about a principle that I, as a Catholic, try to uphold-that of subsidiarity, in which a state should not substitute itself for the responsibility of individual men and women in a community (see CCC 1883-1894 for more on this). Although I love-and use-Amazon, I really love supporting my local community in various ways: buying from the farmer's market, getting coffee from a small, locally-owned shop, and spending loads of time at the local library. 

Yet, even though "keeping it local" can be a really good endeavor, we can take our enthusiasm too far. There have been many occasions when I've found myself directing my mindset and vision solely to my local area, focusing on my immediate realm of existence. 

Those times when I've believed that there's only one way to be a mom, because that is the only image I've been noticing in my church or circle of acquaintances. 

Those times when I've thought that there's only one "good way" to give birth and raise a newborn, simply because of what I've always been told through conversations or literature. 

Those times when I think that certain behaviors and relationships are normal and healthy, because that's all that I've known. 

Those times when I've believed that being a "feminine woman" only manifests itself in one particular way, because that's what has been presented to me as the truth. 

There's an excellent novel, written by L.M. Montgomery, titled The Blue Castle. In this novel, Valancy Stirling is a victim of her community's narrow perspective. Things are done a certain way because they have always been done that way. Her relatives do and say disrespectful things to her because they've always acted like that. Valancy's gaze looks no further than her teeny-tiny, immediate community of family and neighbors, and she suffers for it. Until one day, when she dares to step outside of her comfort zone and look at what the world has to offer. 

Like Valancy, I've been trying to break out of a comfortable, hyper-local mindset. I've been trying to keep a more global perspective, looking to places throughout the world and times throughout history to inform my decisions. I've always loved learning about world cultures, but when I was young, I eagerly read about other countries in a bit of a "let's learn about a foreign place where they do weird things" way. I studied other places for fun and out of curiosity, not to learn from them and actually use this knowledge to change my life. Towards the end of college, though, I really began to change. My view of the world had grown larger since moving to an out-of-state college, travelling Europe, and getting married, and my vision was only growing deeper. When I moved to Oklahoma, I added rich experiences and relationships to my life, and the wealth of my perspective continued to grow. I am finding that humanity is incredibly beautiful, and extremely varied. There are a variety of experiences worldwide that are all authentic human experiences, even if I may not be able to relate to them. 

One of the aspects I love about being Catholic is that our very name, "catholic," means "universal." The Catholic Church encompasses a tremendous variety of cultures, and people with all sorts of experiences. We have a wealth of history to examine and learn from as we seek to follow God in our lives. I've observed that sometimes, people drift away from the Catholic Church because they have a negative experience with a local parish or with a priest they know. These kinds of situations are so difficult for people to go through, and I in no way want to gloss over the pain they may have experienced. However, I also want to remind people that we need to widen our perspectives. We need to look beyond our local community and its problems, and remember that we are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. We are joined in prayer with Catholics in Heaven, in Purgatory, and on Earth--on all parts of the Earth. 

In an episode of the 1960s Batman TV show ("Zelda the Great"), Bruce Wayne, Alfred, and Dick are stargazing. 
Bruce, always ready to teach an uplifting lesson to his young ward, states: "Astronomy is more than mere fun, Dick." "It is?" Dick responds. Bruce replies: "Yes, it helps us get a sense of proportion. Reminds us how little we are, really. People tend to forget that sometimes."
By all means, support your local community and "keep it local." However, when it comes to your perspective and mindset, try keeping it global. Whether you're stuck in the Mommy Wars, facing a challenge at your church, or are grappling with widespread dating "traditions," looking to the lives of countless men and women worldwide and throughout history can bring loads of clarity to a situation. 


  1. This is excellent! Love your clarification at the end about keeping it local with supporting your community, but keeping it global with your mindset! So important!

    I definitely get this way when I start having a pity party and "thinking global" helps me get out of that! I also appreciate "thinking global" when it comes to parenting practices like cosleeping, etc.

  2. This post is amazing!I agree with you so strongly! I also really, really appreciate the universality of the Church!

    1. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this, Lianna! The universality is beautiful-truly, there is a place for each person in the Church, and I love learning about the various traditions and backgrounds that people have. It's just so rich and vibrant!