Like you, I was sad to read that Dabbler’s, a store in West Concord, is going out of business. And I grieve that others in our surrounding communities may have to close too. I fear that newspapers as I know and love them, newsprint and all, are going away. My world, our community is changing, and my heart hurts.

Which started me thinking about the kind of community that nourishes me, that I want to live Inuit’s made up of farmers, health clubs, people who fix all kinds of things – local companies and solo practitioners, massage therapists and the West Concord 5&10.It’s made up of restaurants and coffee shops too.

All these folks who live in our neighborhoods are collectively struggling to afford music lessons for children, or just struggling to put food on the table.

So the question is, how important is a living, breathing, vibrant economic community to our physical health? I asked myself: Am I supporting my neighbors when I need something, and when I do, how does that make me feel?

In my case, I was, and then I wasn’t supporting my neighbors.

I have to admit that I looked on line to read about pepper mills, to read about a vegetable peeler to peel my butternut squash for Thanksgiving. I scrolled through book reviews on Amazon. I forgot to book a massage with a massage therapist I’ve been seeing for years, and whom I love. I put off having my piano tuned.

But then last week, instead of spending money online in the dead of night with only my bathrobe for comfort, I went to local stores. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I walked into Kitchen Outfitters in Acton. A young woman named Karen greeted me, made me feel warm and fuzzy (really!), and showed me the perfect pepper mill. She handed me a real live carrot and had me try a serrating peeler right then and there. I knew how mine would feel in the hand. Perfecto! I not only got what I needed in a few minutes, but I got a little love, a spoonful of humanity and companionship. Talk about good for my heart!

I left smiling having met neighbors, listened to excited conversations in the store about meals being planned, questions being answered. I swear that my heart sang too.

I am on a mission to make my economic community whole so my heart can be content too.

I called and got my piano tuned. I had the weather-stripping replaced around my front door by a local handywoman, gave my accountant a hug, bought more tickets for Zumba Gold (for us folks who can no longer do the high jump) at Yoga & Nia For Life, and each interaction made me realize what a wealth of resources we have amongst our friends and neighbors. Each interaction with someone is human, which feels strengthening, doesn’t it?

I will, of course, as always, shop for gifts at local stores. This has always been easy and a no-brainer for me. Same with paint. Same with a rug.

Because I love reading both my local paper and the Boston Globe, I will add an extra subscription to each by having one delivered to our store too so our staff and customers can share the pleasure of holding a real paper in their hands.

Does everything need to be from the neighborhood? No, we don’t grow or make everything here, but the simple, daily interactions that bring us together, that allow us to support one another, can make the economic community strong and viable, and, I would argue, make our hearts whole too.

An exaggeration and oversimplification? Of course. But it’s hard to get depressed when we realize how many interesting and wonderful people there are in our community who do all kinds of things to earn a living. And it makes the heart beat fondly when we support those who support us in return! Happiness is contagious and good for our hearts. Hopefully that’s one thing we can all agree on.

Debra Stark (this appeared first in the Concord Journal)