By KENZIE MORRIS | Moonshine Ink

Our popular Facebook group, Truckee Tahoe People, will frequently produce strings of comments or a reposted article along the lines of what makes a “local.” Definitions often include some sort of reasoning as to how and why that person is more entitled to Tahoe than everyone else. Everyone has their opinions and it seems that most shape their conception of locality to include them and exclude others. Social media seems to be a self-righteous proving ground to make others feel poorly about themselves because they were not born here or can’t afford living here for 40 years. Here is my list of what I consider a true local.

1. Volunteer or show support at fundraisers.

Do you give up of your time, annually or more, for a good cause? We have great options: You can restore stream beds with the local Truckee River Watershed Council, help with the ski swap, or participate in a beach clean-up. Do you attend fundraisers for community members who are sick and in need? Do you donate to local charities like High Fives or donate used clothes to the thrift store? To truly be a part of the community, giving of your time or what money you can afford to charity proves your love for the area. Could you imagine if every self-proclaimed “local” volunteered or raised funds? Truckee/Tahoe would be the most community-driven town in the world.

2. Support local businesses during slow seasons.

Have you made a point to shop local in November or eaten out at your favorite restaurant in May? It keeps the servers employed and boosts the economy.

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3. Drive intelligently.

We’ve all seen the carnage on roads after a fresh snowfall and witnessed cars unable to stop at traffic lights. Most of us use winter or studded snow tires and four-wheel drive, but part of being a local is knowing how to not be the cause of those accidents. Yes, those who are uncomfortable may drive at an ungodly slow pace, but know that passing them on a blind corner could send them into a ditch and ruin the day for everyone else trying to get to work. So be smart and give yourself time on a slow morning and you’re a true snow driving veteran. You can relax and maybe even take part in check point #4.

4. Be helpful.

Have you worked a long shift only to find a poor soul stuck in a snowy ditch while knowing full well that you have 2 feet of snow to shovel on your own driveway at home? It’s winter; we all go through it. So go out of your way to help out someone struggling especially when the conditions are horrible and you’re as tired as can be. Yes, this is what living in Tahoe is all about.

5. Leave with more trash than you brought in.

This goes for any environmentalist and nature lover, but if you truly care about where you live, grab a few extra cans from Chimney Beach or along tomorrow’s hike. It shouldn’t seem like a question but rather second nature. Keep Tahoe blue and our beaches clean.

6. Know your community leadership; be passionate about a local cause.

There are many people brainstorming on solutions to the housing crisis, or pro-development this or anti-development that. Whatever your opinion may be, show that you care about where you live. That means vocalizing your opinion … and not just a rant on Facebook. Have you attended a forum, written your local congressman or mayor, voted for our local offices, or filled out online questionnaires? Have you had an opinion at all over any issue and done something about it?

7. Know others outside your age group; have a conversation or friendship with them.

Are you part of a local sports team or activity group? If you consider yourself a local and you only know people your own age, it may be time to branch out. Talk to a neighbor, help them with groceries every once in a while.

DEFINING MOMENT: It’s not how long you’ve lived here that makes you local, it’s truly being part of the community that really counts, says Morris.

8. Know your local service people.

Are you on a first name basis with your letter carrier? With your grocery clerk? Knowing the individuals who work for you daily is easier in a small town, and chances are if you see them weekly, they at least recognize you, so why not make your interaction more personable and get to know them as well?

9. Help a friend in need.

Whether it’s visiting them in the hospital, caring for them when they are sick/injured, or offering your home when someone has lost theirs, what separates true locals from everyone else is knowing and caring for your friends or even distant acquaintances. It could be as simple as loaning someone your crutches or running errands for a neighbor with the flu. Being a helping hand to others in need builds local community.

10. Last but not least, ‘fess up: You’ve peed in the lake. You know we have all done it.

If you can say yes to all of these, congratulations! You are a fully committed Tahoe/Truckee local, and better yet, a part of your community. The most important takeaway is that you should try. Many of us haven’t completed every task on this list, but by working on it, you show love for where we live. Let’s all try and be a little more “local,” as defined by our relationships to others and commitments to causes, and see where our combined efforts can take us.

Note: You’re not grandfathered-in simply because you went to a local high school or put in 30 long years as a Tahoe-ite. No, a local can spend one year here and mean more to the community than someone who has spent a lifetime in the region doing nothing for anyone else.


Main Image Caption: THINK ON IT: Truckee’s own Kenzie Morris mulls over what it truly means to be a Tahoe local. Courtesy photo

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