By Mike Ferrians
The Times 

One conclusion, talk about hope

Local friends set up opportunity for community to share experiences


Lane Gwinn

Mike Ferrians and Maria Garcia in conversation with Waitsburg locals Ken Taylor and daughter Julia Taylor.

Waitsburg–My long-time friend Maria Garcia and I were recently sitting (six feet apart) in her back acre, talking about how the pandemic has affected us personally. We hadn't planned it. I had stopped by for a brief hello. But then we decided to share a glass of wine outside in the shade.

We've known each other for a very long time and are the best of friends. In no time, we were discussing the psychological and emotional impacts we and others have experienced, due not solely to the pandemic over the last five months. We observed our community experiencing disorientation, economic turmoil, social tensions, and political polarization-all of the uncertainty creating grief, anger, and anxiety. Our conclusion, we are living through a time of immense social trauma, and it's taking a toll on all of us.

That conclusion quickly became an action. There was something we could do. It is something both of us have been doing much of our lives. It meant we didn't have to just sit on our sofas, feeling helpless.

Here's what we did: we got permission to set up a small table and a few chairs on Main Street in Waitsburg on the morning of July 15. We borrowed an easel with a large whiteboard. On it, we wrote, "Let's Talk about Hope." It looked a bit like school. We had crayons and paper. Anyone was welcome to sit down and visit.

A familiar neighbor had already been hanging around, strumming his trusty mandolin; he naturally joined us. A woman who had just picked up her coffee drink from Ten Ton also sat and joined us. (She looked familiar and reminded me we had met almost a year earlier. We reconnected.) Over an hour, seven or eight other people stopped to see what was happening.

When we invited them to draw a picture of what "hope" looked like, they drew. When we asked, "How has the pandemic affected your ability to hope?" they spoke. Some folks used relatively few words; others used many. We listened. We reflected on what we heard. When the hour was up, one woman said, "I didn't realize how much I needed this."

We have decided we are going to do it again.


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