“I’m a bit cross with Coles at the moment”, my 82 year old grandmother informed me, as we tucked in to the Sunday lunch she had lovingly prepared. “They keep lowering the price of fruit and vegetables!”
As she went on to explain, this means nothing but trouble for farmers and the agricultural industry. While the big supermarkets tussle for Aussie groceries dollars using such cunning tools as the price of milk (because, of course, ‘everybody buys milk’), the impact is felt most keenly by those at the start of the supply chain.
“So I only go the IGA”.
My grandmother Marj is a strong woman with a clear understanding of her values. Despite the obvious challenges an octogenarian may face in changing their shopping habits and seeking out an independent retailer, she was matter-of-fact about the need to make the switch. There was no fuss about it, no ceremony – just the simple truth that the big supermarkets are behaving in a way she finds unethical, and as such she has taken her business elsewhere.
In a matter of 30 seconds, she had managed to outline a powerful, simple formula for ethical living in the modern world.
- Know how things work :
Marj wasn’t just speaking from the gist of a story gleaned from a sensationalist newspaper headline. She explained how she had seen a lot about this particular issue, citing Landline and other sources that had helped her to understand what was going on.
- Feel the injustice :
When Marj spoke about the impact that these strategies were having on farmers, her tone revealed her shock and sadness that anyone could act in such a way towards another human being. It was clear that this was an issue that had an impact on her. Perhaps it was her years as a girl in Mullumbimby, or the countless hours she spent with my grandfather enjoying Australia from behind the wheel. Whatever the inspiration, she appreciated the contribution of Australia’s farmers, and was moved by an issue that is threatening their very existence.
- See where you fit :
Knowing about it and feeling moved are important – but if you don’t see where you fit within the story, then it’s hard to know what to do next. For Marj, she recognised her role as a consumer, regularly buying fruit and vegetables, and (as is the case for many Australians), finding it quite easy to shop at the local Coles or Woolworths.This is the pivotal point, because if you are well-enough equipped with your knowledge (point 1) and you feel strongly enough about the issue (point 2), then once you see where you fit… that’s the tipping point.
- Make your change :
As a pensioner, you might expect Marj may want to save a few dollars here or there. But not when it comes to the important issues, it seems (like shouting her granddaughter a chai latte – but hey, as she explained, “it’s Julia’s shout”!). Seeking out an IGA, changing her shopping habits (don’t you hate having to figure out the aisle configuration, and placement of your particular grocery items, in an unfamiliar shop?), and in the process spending more on groceries – Marj spoke about it as a joy, rather than a burden. After all, she was moved to action and as she saw it, it was a necessary switch to make. The resultant difficulties were not even on her radar.
- Talk it up :
By bringing up the topic of her supermarket boycott, Marj was sharing her action – her contribution towards increased justice in the world. She did so in a manner that was backed by both information, and passion. To me, this was an action worth sharing, because it has the power to start an interesting dialogue and perhaps compel others to consider similar changes in their own lives. Not all actions need be shared, and it depends on the time, place and purpose of the conversation – but as a general rule, I was struck by the idea that if you don’t share the actions you are taking, you stifle the potential impact of those actions.
The path from being “a bit cross” about something, to taking a personal action, is not always straightforward. But I was inspired by the simplicity with which my grandma presented her own personal experience, and it made me wonder whether perhaps we are sometimes inclined to overcomplicate things in our search for the perfect solution.
Instead, should we concentrate on our own little patch of the world – that sphere within which we have some degree of influence. Is it here where we should be ready, willing and able to make positive change for the betterment of others?
Either way, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on those things that make us cross, and determining that we are going to take an action – however small – to improve the situation!