Creating A Community By Design Rather Than By Default
Central Oregon was fortunate once again to have Jack Johnson, the Hawaiian singer-songwriter known for his melodic, acoustic tunes, perform at the Les Schwab Amphitheater recently. Ever since my kids were toddlers I would play his hit song Banana Pancakes as I made our favorite Sunday morning feast. What you may not know about Jack Johnson is in addition to being a musician he’s a record producer, documentary filmmaker and a former professional surfer.
Gerry Lopez is another prominent Hawaiian who happens to call Bend, Oregon home. He is a legendary surfing icon who led the short-board revolution surfing craze of the early 1970s. He won the Pipeline Masters of Oahu’s North Shore competition in 1972 and 1973, which has since been named the Gerry Lopez Pipeline Masters. Interestingly, Jack Johnson became the youngest person to make the finals of this very prestigious surfing event in 1992. Unfortunately, just short of winning the competition, Johnson suffered a surfing accident that quickly ended his days as professional surfer. His song Drink the Water was inspired from this haunting incident. It’s no surprise that Jack and Gerry have formed a friendship over the years.
The day before last week’s concert my son Jack (same first name) was boogie boarding the standing wave at Bend’s new and very impressive whitewater park. To say that he was thrilled when his role models Jack Johnson and Gerry Lopez showed up with their surfboards in hand would be an enormous understatement. After viewing their surf sessions, receiving a few pointers and high fives, Jack ran to my office to share his peak experience with me.
In regards to peak experiences or lack thereof, I have a feeling you will concur that navigating Bend’s roads lately has been anything but pleasurable. Just on my way to the Redmond Airport today, I witnessed drivers get irritated with each other by honking horns and not give way to others. I even saw a driver not stop for pedestrians at a cross walk. Our roads are unquestionably more congested due to a combination of the busy tourism season upon us as well as the new round of exponential growth Central Oregon is experiencing but does it have to be this way?
I fervently say NO! I’ve been thinking to myself ─ What is happening to our city where almost everyone is kind, generous and friendly? Are we becoming the stereotypical fast paced city? Is technology playing a role as people seem less connected to each other?
When I arrived to my departure gate at the airport I saw almost everyone staring at the little screens on their smart phones reading the latest tweets from our president, responding to emails and texts or watching videos. Even the young children had their own electronic devices to withdraw from one another and experiences the day could offer.
There was no conversing with each other, new acquaintances being formed, stories being shared or games being played. Have we taught our children by example to be disconnected from their environment? Are we as parents so connected that we are disconnected? I felt an overwhelming sadness as I questioned whether many children of today are missing out on their childhoods and we, their parents, may not even be present to comprehend this and experience the present moment.
I embrace technology and how it benefits us in countless ways, but I have also pondered its potential side effects. The original purpose of technology was to increase productivity so that we could have more time. Today we are moving through life faster than ever before, but do we really have more time? Are our children by-products of our appetite for speed?
This reminds me of the story of a son and his dad. The dad always brought his briefcase home from the office and this confused the son. The son said: “Dad, why is it that when you come home from work you always bring your briefcase?” The father replied that it was because he could not get all of his work done at the office. The little boy said: “Dad, can’t they put you in a slower group?”
The truth is that some of us probably need to be put into a slower group. It’s not easy for most of us to disconnect. But we can choose to slow down and smell the air and the dirt as well as the flowers. By making a conscious decision to disconnect. Have you heard Lukas Graham’s hit song 7 Years and Twenty One Pilots song Stressed Out? The combination of these profound tunes may be the modern day visions of Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle.
In their own unique ways both Johnson and Lopez share their thoughts that resonate with me and my growing concerns for our society. Johnson sings about his fear of a tech-addicted future in his acoustic number Ones and Zeros. In a Rolling Stone interview he stated, “I see girls on the beach that never let go of their phones. It’s kind of crazy. We’re all accepting this idea that kids are constantly moving their fingers around these little flat screens. Is it worth it? Do we let books just slide away?”
A fellow author, Lopez wrote a wonderful book: Surf Is Where You Find It. In it he stated, “Surfing happens best when it’s the present; the past is behind and the future not yet. The only thing of interest is what’s here and now.” This is not only a timeless message with the soul of surfing but a message we can all take to heart especially as Bend continues to grow at such a high-speed pace.
So this leads me to the next big question: How are we going to keep Bend ─ Bend-like? Have you ever heard people say they wish they could build a wall around the city the day after they relocate here? Have you heard others complain how the endless tourists don’t even know how to navigate our numerous roundabouts?
I think we all have and yet are we part of the problem as we focus on the challenges rather than potential solutions? I believe being against something only weakens us and being for something empowers us. Rather than being against congestion and tourism maybe we can shift our thoughts to mindful growth. Instead of having little tolerance for people moving here, as most of us did at one point in the past, maybe it would benefit everyone if were more patient with newcomers as they acclimatize to our slower pace of life. Nothing good happens when we approach these challenges with aggression.
Back in 2008, when I was the chair of the Bend Chamber of Commerce, I would half kiddingly say when one moves to Bend they must purchase a Subaru Outback, a Labrador retriever, flip flops with a beer opener and be required to take a half day course titled: Bend Etiquette. This fictional course may be more relevant than ever before to help maintain our values and not slowly lose our unique je ne sais quoi.
However, I do believe we locals are part of the problem as I see an underlying frustration and sometimes anger for those visiting or relocating here.
I recently had an opportunity to meet Allison Barnard. Allison is a local life coach and business consultant who owns Larkspur Wellness. A native Oregonian, she moved to Bend 10 years ago. She vividly remembers the negativity around the locals frustration for growth and tourism in Ashland, Oregon where she previously resided. She realized that wasn’t an attitude she wanted to embrace and over the past few years she began feeling a similar local sentiment here in Bend. Rather than sit back in frustration and watch a similar scenario unfold she decided to take action and committed to focusing on what she loves about living in Bend. She then created what I think is a most appropriate and timely message. Maybe you have seen her posters around town called —- BE A LOCAL! IN BEND.
Here are her words of wisdom:
WARMTH. GENEROCITY. ACCEPTANCE. KEEP IT GOING
WAG MORE. BARK LESS: There are positives and negatives to every changing town. Continue the conversation. Participate.
DRIVE LIKE YOU LIVE HERE: Let people in. Save your horn for important stuff. Be careful with your phone. Signal when exiting roundabouts.
TURN THE MUSIC UP. TURN THE MUSIC DOWN: Know when to live it up and when to chill. Be mindful to those around you.
SAY HELLO BACK: Being welcoming and aware of one another helps continue a tradition of kindness.
SEEK TO UNDERSTAND: Seek perspective. Breathe in. Breathe out. Seek to learn from and give to those around you.
MEET YOUR NEIGHBORS: Good things can happen when we get to know one another.
PAY ATTENTION: Bend is a biking and walking community. Slow down a bit. See each other. We all benefit.
TRY TO BUY LOCAL: Where we shop, eat and have fun makes our community home and strengthens our community.
WALK MORE: This town reveals pretty amazing things when you walk it.
SAY THANKS: Wave and say thanks when crossing . Acknowledge the little things kind people do. They’re everywhere.
YOUR VIBE ATTRACTS YOUR TRIBE: Evolve. Together. Be welcoming and feel welcomed.
When we live in Bend, I feel we have a deep responsibility to participate in ways that make a positive difference in our community . Thank you Allison for making a profound difference. If you’d like a poster, please reach out and I will make sure you receive one.
We live in such an amazing place that it deserves to be created by design rather than by default. A majority of us who have relocated here over the years have made a conscious decision that this is where we want to live more than any place else to raise our families, start our businesses, recreate, enjoy our retirement years or any combination of the four.
I have never experienced another area where almost everyone is here because they have consciously chosen to be! Abraham Lincoln stated, “You are only as happy as you make up your mind to be.”
Central Oregonians are happy people. We look strangers in their eyes, we smile and say hello. How can we share our values with both visitors and those who want to now call Bend home? This has been on my mind for years and Allison is certainly taking a great first step.
Bend is so very busy. Life is so very busy. Working hard and having a strong work ethic is very important, but I find that one of the best ways to succeed in life and business — is to keep a reasonable pace in one’s life. I hear people say that someday their life will settle down. I do not believe this will automatically happen. Settling life down is a choice.
Author and Philosopher Wayne Dyer stated: Remember yesterday, dream about tomorrow but live today. These words can serve you — and your fellow Bendites — well as long as we can get out of your own way, connect with those around us, focus on solutions rather than challenges. In the mean time lead by example. Smile, slow down just a bit and as Allison states: Evolve. Together. Be welcoming and feel welcomed.
David Rosell is President of Rosell Wealth Management in Bend. www.RosellWealthManagement.com. He is the author of Failure is Not an Option- Creating Certainty in the Uncertainty of Retirement and Keep Climbing─ A Millennial’s Guide to Financial Planning. Learn more about his book at www.DavidRosell.com.
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