Blackstone River near Slater Mill. In the background – abandoned former retail APEX building.

We took a trip to Pawtucket, Rhode Island today to visit a new bookstore, and, weather pending, walk around. After a humid Saturday, today seemed bitter cold. So we took a quick trip to see the exterior of Slater Mill and the visitor center. It was so nice to read about our state’s history. If you don’t know about Samuel Slater, please click HERE to read a bit about him. We have a lot to thank him for, but jobs are specifically what I have in mind. This man had an idea and the brains and used them to create work opportunities and eventually, great success for himself and the community. As we walked around Pawtucket, we noted many empty store fronts and unkept areas. I was so busy imagining the bustling town and factories that once were, that these sites burst my bubble.

On our way home we drove by a Super Walmart, Super Stop & Shop and some other familiar chains, which were all very busy; parking lots full and people rushing around with arm loads of bags. I thought to myself – WHAT HAS HAPPENED HERE?! Holy smokes!! Inside the Walmart are unhappy, underpaid employees and inside Stop & Shop there is one staff member tending to 6-8 self scan machines. I should know, I used to be one of them.

I looked at my husband and we started a conversation about WHY our country isn’t the way it was during Slater’s lifetime. Don’t think me naive here, of course we can’t completely compare today to the 1700s. There isn’t just one answer, rather many that factor into the downfall of this state (and county!) Rhode Island is pretty famous for corrupt government but I don’t want to get into that! I thought about Slater and the time he was alive then I thought about today. During his time technology was at a minimum (heck they were still creating technology) and there were fewer options for personal items one kept. Perhaps most were satisfied with a  simple life. Today, we are so entitled. Everything and anything is literally at our finger tips via Amazon. We can afford (or believe we can afford) our phones, big houses and fancy things. We have debt up to our eyeballs from these large purchases but somehow manage to have the latest iPhone (monthly payments still add up to $699 by the way – they fooled ya!!) Our news is delivered to us via our Facebook all day so we don’t need to pick up newspaper or turn on the TV. We don’t even need to call our friends anymore to see what they are up to because we see it on social media.

So today we purchase items made or partially made in other countries and shop at places that begin with “Super” because it is convenient to shop in one large place. But is that really better than stopping at each vendor table at a farmer’s market? Or driving down main street to shop Mom & Pop shops? If our phones supposedly make our lives easier and more organized, why don’t we have the time to be conscious of where we shop and how we spend our money? There seems to be a slow and steady “SHOP LOCAL” movement but it sure is expensive. We’d like to support the local farms at the farmer’s market but who can afford $25 for a small square of beef? Well wait a minute, you own a $700 phone, shouldn’t you be able to afford the beef that is less than your monthly phone (hardware) payment? Could this be a conundrum?

We were once so successful because we had drive, we were persistent, cared for each other and our community. We had goals and had to work hard for what we wanted in life. It was a hard day’s work and we slept well from it. We wanted very little and something very simple – a few personal items, a nice place to live and a warm meal on the table. We enjoyed the beauty of the outdoors without taking staged photos for our social media pages. Some days I dream of returning to a time like that.

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