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Area 97 Article

By Compassion

The Bend Bulletin Area 97 Magazine featured a few local residents for a piece called ‘A Day in the Life.’ It was a honor to be included!

The main piece was written by Lauren Davis Baker and the following piece was co-written by me and Jen Houston:

My 97 Cents: We are all caretakers of our community

From the time I arrived in Bend three years ago, I have experienced this city as a kind, generous community that manifests those core values into action, whether through philanthropy, volunteerism, or in everyday interactions. I lead a volunteer-based nonprofit that receives that generosity from facilitators and members willing to commit their time and energy to learning from and supporting each other. Collaboration and caring are foundational to Bend’s culture.

I also notice that as we grow as a city, so does the anxiety that we might lose these qualities. We worry that Bend could to turn into a lonely, stressed-out environment that lacks personal connection and compassion. The conversation is very alive right now. Local initiatives like the Bend Joy Project and Be A Local in Bend posters are reminders to think about how we can actively nurture kindness and generosity here.

This is what I love about the urgency of this question (and our willingness to explore the answers): they are the best indication that we will not lose the things we most love about Bend.

We are all caretakers of our community culture, and compassion is a muscle we can build and strengthen together. When we’re faced with challenging interactions, when we’re dealing with difficult situations, we can lean in and see them as opportunities to practice kindness. It isn’t enough to say “be nice” to others. We have to embody it ourselves.

In my work as a Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) facilitator, I work with groups to cultivate awareness, openness and curiosity about the world around them as well as their internal thoughts and beliefs. Learning mindfulness and presence to understand the habits of our minds is a gift for growth. These practices can alleviate our worries and fears so we can become powerful forces for good — in our relationships, our families, our workplaces, and in our community.

As I tell my students, the circle of compassion begins with ourselves. It is also the hardest place to start. In our CCT curriculum, we have to begin by cultivating compassion for loved ones, because getting to self-compassion first is just too difficult. We know how to give to our family, our friends, to non-profits, but we just bypass us. There is a stigma that it is selfish or that it is somehow a passive, complacent approach to building the life and community we want. 

Bend is an intentional community where people who grew up here have chosen to stay and people from other places have chosen to move here for its natural beauty, life-work balance, and small town qualities. There is so much to do and so many ways to be involved that enrich our lives. From the outside, it can look like we exist in a perfect town where everyone is always happy and always kind. 

It truly is a wonderful city. I believe it can be even better when we learn how to be kinder to ourselves and recognize that our imperfections and flaws are part of what brings us together. Embracing them makes us a stronger community, and a more compassionate one.

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