Sometimes we have to suffer a great loss in order to appreciate not only what we have lost, but to realise the blessings of what we have left.

My wife and I recently lost a much loved and treasured family member. The darkened place we found ourselves in was however gloriously brightened by the incredible support on offer from our local community. Literally anything that could be done to lighten the load of the family was done. Never before have I been so proud to be part of our community. This is my place …

We all need to ‘belong.’ It is a human emotional need. This is not about ‘knowing the people’ – it is to do with satisfying an inherent need to belong to something greater than ourselves.  Communities of expats can form and bond in Spain, America, or the UK and this is good and necessary; however there is no belonging to compare to where one is born and reared and where the roots run deep.

Unfortunately small rural communities in Ireland are an endangered species. Small towns and villages are turning into commuter pads for city workers. Families who never get to mix with or know there neighbours are missing out. This is not the Irish way of living and it should not be like this. Rural Ireland, as we once knew it, is under threat – and not from foreigners this time, but from our own ‘townies.’ There is a solution, and we’ll come to that in a minute.

First, let me tell you about ‘my place.’ It is just a crossroads village with one pub. That pub is the heart of the community – and no, you don’t have to drink to be a part of us. It is our community centre, and thanks mostly to Denise, everything that is good in our place is channelled through our pub.

The pub is all that remains of the village. I can remember when it boasted a post-office, two grocery shops, a forge, a church, petrol pumps, a dressmaker, a ball-alley and a machinery contractor. The pub is the only live building left from all of above. The rest have gone in the name of modernisation and progress.

The facts are that we lose whatever we don’t use: And therein my friends lies both the problem and the solution.

The decimation of rural towns and villages is not unique to Ireland. I have seen evidence of similar abandonment across America and the UK. We can change this trend if only we all do our little bit.

Right now, if a bank, police station, or post-office closes down there is local uproar. Petitions and protests is the order of the day until the protesters tire, adapt, and life moves on. But why is there no protest when the corner shop, or the family butcher pulls the shutters down? The answer is because these closures are our own fault. ‘If you don’t use it you lose it.’

Local shops – sometimes in the family for generations are closing down and being replaced by bookies, phone shops and charity shops in every town. It is time to say we have enough of these and we want our family shops back.

The feeling of belonging to a vibrant local community is worth fighting for. But you don’t have to fight, dear reader; all you have to do is to start shopping local. We need to keep the small shops profitable through giving them our support.

Of course you can save pennies on everything you buy in the supermarket ten miles away. Have you factored in the cost of your car or the value of your time?

Christmas is coming and what a boost it would be to the villages of our country if we first checked out what can be purchased locally and kept our money at home.

There will be millions spent through online shopping over the next few weeks and an ever-increasing share of the market next year. This money is going into the coffers of a faceless multi-national in some far away country. Yes, we do understand that Santa needs to come and that families have to get the best value they can; just think about it and do the best you can.

Continue to drive past the local shop without ever stopping and chances are that some day when you need to stop, the shop won’t be there. The greatest price of all to be paid is that along with the corner shop, you could lose the privilege of belonging to a community like mine.

This is my place and I am so proud to come from here …

Don’t Forget

Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position, or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service and character.