Another local business has announced it will be closing. And for now we are sad. We cry about what a shame it is, and blame it on changing times. We share Facebook posts and status updates, and pledge to do better. But the pledge is short lived because haven’t you heard of that app that will do price-match at Walmart?
I walk the streets of my small Northern town, passing by boarded up windows and empty store-fronts. It feels like a ghost town in an old western and part of me anticipates the rolling tumbleweed I’m sure to see. Everything feels grey, melancholic, and plastered in dust. It feels forgotten.
All of the colour and life sits in box stores with corporate agendas and on the back-lit screens of online shopping. In the meantime, another store closes.
The beauty of Northwestern Ontario lives in its ruggedness. The wild abandon of trees and lakes and the spirit of survival. That same spirit that claims each of us who live here. And when we forget that, when we forget how powerful we can be, others take notice.
The South treats us like a dying commodity. And the government can announce all the new funding it wants, but until we see action we should not be content to sit by and wait. We are survivors and we are at our best when we are supporting each other. Another for sale sign, another boarded window and we tell them we are content to fade away. Well, I am not content and I will not fade.
People often ask me what I am doing here in Northwestern Ontario. They wonder why I came back to live and work here. And regardless of the answer, that question speaks for itself. That people think we have nothing to offer a younger generation is a deep sadness. But more and more our businesses close, our homes go up on the market, and we leave to try again somewhere else.
I propose we work together to find a new way to let them know that our land, our homes, our spirit is not for sale. So while we still can, while there is still time, let’s play to our strengths and figure this out. Because quite frankly I don’t think we’re done surviving yet.