I met our two newest Project SEED interns at Mount Hood Community College. These two young men, from El Salvador and Haiti respectively, were in Oregon for two years studying natural resources and then returning to their countries to restore natural environments close to their homes.

As we drove to various field sites, I asked them what they thought were the best and worse experiences while in the U.S. Immediately and together, they said the saddest realization is that people in America don’t have time for one another. “It is pretty much high and bye.”

Yesterday, almost all our rural Lyle neighbors got together to talk about various common issues. The meeting took 90 minutes and we were treated to generous hospitality.

The word community reveals a number of meanings; my favorite is: “the condition of living with others,friendly association and fellowship.” And the ecological one is good as well: “A group of animal and plant species living together and having close interactions.”

While simply living in proximity to one another may loosely fall under the traditional notion of community, shouldn’t there have to be some time spent together to feel like one belongs in a place that embraces you?

I talked with an elderly woman last week who is moving to Hood River, but she is a bit worried that she won’t find a community of kind, accepting folks here. Do we still have “Welcome Wagon,” that once great organization with representatives to greet newcomers with information and gifts?

Perhaps one of the best community builders is time together outdoors. We are just a couple days after 4th of July parades and fireworks, a lot of time spent in gardens, barbequing, hiking, and attending concerts under the sky. It is hard to be rushed when walking the land. There are plenty of distractions, opportunities for beauty, and for laughter. And if there is a destination such as a sunset-viewing spot, well, you can’t rush unfolding cloud colors.

So, if you are fortunate to a landowner, invite folks out to foster a sense of community. And if you live in town, grab a family member, friend or acquaintance and travel to a place that brings people together, a natural place that make that person feel welcome. ~

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