My tiny rural town has a thrift bakery that has been there for decades.  Within walking distance are three low-income apartment complexes.  Historically, our economy has relied on four industries: dairy farming, fishing, logging, and tourism.  The local dairy industry has been largely dominated by a handful of local pioneer families, the fishing and logging industries have fallen into decline, and the tourism industry has consisted mostly of minimum-wage hospitality jobs, many of which are seasonal.  




This paints a bleak picture for our local economy, and underscores the need for a low-cost place for families to buy whole-grain bread, eggs, dairy, and other staples.  The Tillamook Franz Bakery Outlet has been that place.  In recent months, sales have suffered, leading the corporate office in another town to announce the store’s pending closure. 

For over half of the last year, the road on both sides of the store were nearly impassible, due to a construction project that seemed to take forever.  The road was closed, and even when it was reopened, the roads were still difficult.  People continue to avoid that stretch of road even now, as driving it entails negotiating an obstacle course of manhole covers that jut inches above the unfinished pavement.  In the local paper, a spokesman for the store’s parent company minimized the impact of the road closure on sales; locals know better.

It hadn’t occurred to me that there was any chance of the corporation changing their minds about closing the store, but I thought if they were going to close it, they ought to at least hear the truth of the matter: YES, that road closure DID matter, and locals are very upset about the closure and the impact it will have on our community.  On a whim, I looked up the company online, and called.  To my surprise, I encountered a friendly CEO who answered his own phone.  We had a nice chat, and to my surprise, he has agreed to reconsider the closure if sales improve.  I was impressed, so I posted details of the call to my Facebook page, encouraging people to shop at the store, and call the CEO to tell him of the commitment to keep it open.

A friend of mine created a Facebook event, using my original post, to “Save Tillamook Franz Bakery Outlet,” and as of this writing 270 people have signed onto this event to demonstrate their commitment to help keep this local asset.  There is also a write-up in the local paper.  The outcome remains to be seen, but I have high hopes.  I joked with the reporter from the paper, who is a friend of mine, that here I stand week after week at peace vigil, and sometimes feel so hopeless, but one call to a bread store…  !  It has kind of taken on a life of its own.

Many people are overwhelmed at the idea of creating peace.  It feels so daunting, so universal, yet peace is created in simple ways. Feeding the hungry creates peace, even if it’s just trying to keep low-cost food accessible to low-income families.  It can be other simple acts, such as making a phone call, writing a letter, interrupting a hateful remark, or sticking up for someone being bullied.  When we expand our definition of peace to include social and economic justice, and bringing comfort to others, it becomes so simple.  Peace can be a lifestyle!  Life, after all, is comprised of a series of individual moments; it’s how we spend those moments. 

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am reminded that every single one of us, with each simple deed, is part of a larger process, the big picture.  To me, as corny as it may sound, this is bigger than a bread store.  It’s about the inspiration we can provide to one another.  I have been touched by the huge response to this by people who care enough about their community to take one small action.  Whether or not the bread store survives, the effort to save it has brought people together to do something good, and that IS a big deal.  The way we build community is the way we build peace: one action at a time.  Every small act of kindness counts, just like the ocean is made up of billions of tiny drops of water.  It’s when they band together, they become powerful.  For every Gandhi, for every Rosa Parks, for every Martin Luther King, there are countless others of us and we ALL make a difference.

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.