“Local Since Forever,” says the T-shirt or bumper sticker from the venerable Southern grocery store franchise Piggly Wiggly. They invented the self-service store in Memphis in 1919, allowing customers to roam aisles and make more of their own shopping decisions, rather than ordering at a counter. The Pig, as we used to call it, is the oldest player in the supermarket business and has survived many new trends in how people provision themselves. Each store is now independently owned and operated, making them a good bit more local than some competitors.
You’ll often find the Pig in smaller communities, on the less trendy side of town, and in places happy to hold on to a measure of the past. They are on beach at Edisto and on Monteagle mountain in Tennessee, two places I dearly love to be. In fact, few national chains wish to serve these small, rural communities. The stores have a commitment to communities and invite commitment from their customers.
Piggly Wiggly thus seems to have considered its opportunities and challenges and has invited loyalty with slogans such as “I’m Sticking with the Pig” and “Local Since Forever.” These are emblazoned on T-shirts and caps that go well with blue jeans, a swimsuit or other active apparel for a Southern Saturday. Local, loyal, old school, the Pig has managed to hang on in odd places.
December invites some reflection on the local and on loyalty. Darkness comes early this time of year, and many feel an inward turn toward what we know best and first. We are in the house more and going to bed earlier. Could we also turn our attention to our Greenwood community, our wider home, as we prepare for the Christmas feast. Why order from Ross-Simons when Thayer’s and Turner’s are right here? Why turn to Orvis for cool outerwear when you could go to David Lindsey? Get pottery from a local artist at Main and Maxwell instead of Pottery Barn. Surely our uptown lights rival Roper Mountain’s, and a bounty of local food is available at the farmers’ markets. A local Christmas will be a better Christmas for our neighbors.
“And the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us.” So says the Gospel of John in its great meditation on the incarnation of Christ, the Word through whom all things were made, who then came among us as a brother in the flesh. Local since forever he seems to be, before all things, in them and beyond them, awaiting them all at the end. Christ’s birth into human flesh makes him a neighbor of ours, sensitive to our sorrows, aware of our possibilities and willing to suffer with us. Whenever two or three are gathered in his name, whenever he comes in the bread and wine of the church’s feast, whenever we draw near in prayer, the Christ who has been gathered to God in the world beyond nonetheless comes into the neighborhood of our existence and gets local with us again.
And Christ calls us to loyalty to him. In whatever busyness seizes you this month, seek to remember whose you are and whose season this is. Under this swirl of activity is the one who came to be among us with great intention and who invites us to the love of God and neighbor -- those nearby, whoever they are -- as first priorities. Consider how you can be local, authentic, and more deeply his in the lovely season ahead. Christ was local before local was cool, local before the Pig was local. He is ever near for those who can quiet their spirits and sense that he is in the neighborhood.
Nicholas Beasley is rector at Resurrection Episcopal in Greenwood. He can be reached at 864-223-5426.