Wholly Canadian is a social enterprise promoting whole-life local living
...a breath of fresh air for those with a heart for local /fair-trade living, & inspiration for those intrigued...

A Story of Localism... A Wholly Canadian Journey

As a young girl, I grew up with an understanding and appreciation of the second greatest commandment: "Love your neighbour as yourself." As such, I tried to treat my "neighbour" with kindness and grace. The thrust of this neighbourly mandate was to be kind in one's responses regardless of reciprocation, gracious in one's etiquette, and yes, generous with one's resources. But yet when it came to resources, the "love your neighbour as yourself" charge had some unique inferences — or perhaps it was unique in what it did not include. While my community generously shared their resources locally and finances globally, interestingly, purchases were rarely made in light of community orientation. It was a type of vacuum or black-hole in what otherwise was a generous community.

I was never taught that what I purchased affected my neighbour. Rather I was taught to be generous with my purchase and humble when acquiring a new item. For example, if I bought a chocolate bar, the journey of its production, and the farmers who produced this cheap chocolate was irrelevant. A community-orientation implied sharing my chocolate bar and not boasting about it.

While most children are oblivious to the social-political dynamics of economics, I now see that my adult community was not interested in this either. While they loved their "neighbour" in word and action, it was their action that was truncated. This "love your neighbour as yourself" mentality was interrupted; it was robbed of some of its most potent power: Allowing care of one's "neighbour" to affect every sphere of one's life... including one's purchases.

Fast forward into my early young adult years... I moved into the city from rural Manitoba and enjoyed a cosmo-girl lifestyle. I purchased the latest name brand clothing, had a wide selection of the most glamorous perfumes sparkling on my mirrored vanity tray, ate out at the hottest restaurants, and looked for as many deals as possible to support my cosmopolitan lifestyle — all the while believing I was living out this neighbourly command to its fullest, because I was volunteering and giving financially. If asked, I would have said, yes, of course, I love my neighbour as myself!

Yet, I had no idea where my clothing was purchased, what affect my perfumes had on others, and despite my agricultural background, I lost a connection to the journey of food and the faces of the farmers producing it. I lived unaware of this dichotomy. What was important was to be kind and loving to my "neighbours" in my demeanour, to extend a hand of grace to those within my reach, to be generous to the needy around me, and to give financially to international needs.

But never did I consider that neighbourly living was inherently intertwined with a curiosity — a curiosity to seek out the stories of those behind my purchases, a curiosity to see the face of the farmer (or child) working to produce my cheap chocolate, and a curiosity to see the hands of those who stitched my name brand jeans.

My journey of life has afforded me several formative teaching moments towards a more holistic outlook on neighbourly love — a series of moments that have slowly and steadily transformed my paradigm. One such moment on this journey was the thrill of finding some unbleached cotton pillowcases for only 49 cents. I was a graduate student at the time and a deal was a necessary delight. I exclaimed at the incredible price for a natural-fibre item. When I got into my car, I pulled out my newly purchased pillowcases to gaze upon them again (yes, I love a deal!). I looked at the tag to confirm the natural fabric content when my eyes inadvertently glanced upon their origin. It felt like someone had just punched me in the stomach when I read: Ethiopia. I felt sick. There was no way these pillowcases should only cost me 49 cents when accounting for all factors relating to its production and journey; I knew something was skewed. As a privileged Canadian, despite my meagre student finances, I knew I was the only one to truly gain from this transaction.

This among many other formative moments has led me to practice the "love your neighbour as yourself" in a more rooted manner. Instead of just loving my "neighbour" with designated or leftover resources, or with allocated chunks of my life, I now aim to love my neighbour with a transformed ethos — a life lens through which all decisions are made. It has not been an easy journey or a simple one. Attempting to rid myself of the shackles of utilitarianism has proved a worthy challenge — a buying what is "cheapest for me" mentality has not been easy to shake off (Winnipeggers are notorious for their love of deals!). Buying locally and fair-trade has slowly become an integrated discipline... yes, even when it affects my wallet and schedule in ways it would not have otherwise. And I am still on this journey. I have not mastered it, but I am a pilgrim... on a journey.