Initially, I was going to call this column: Winter Hours Stink.
And they do. I would so much prefer that my favorite shops and eateries stayed open, paid winter-level overhead and kept all their employees on full time — just in case I dropped by.
But to expect that would be evidence of pernicious narcissism, inflated ego, extreme neediness — feel free to riff on that one for fun.
Then, I reminded myself that activities never stop in Wallowa County and there always is something cool going on. And even winter can be a good time to enjoy our county.
We’re entering the season of giving (and I believe in gracious self-interest), so I thought about all of the ways we give that benefit us.
Now is a good time to take action politically — and I’m not talking about national politics right now, but I’m not excluding that, either. Good works start at home, so let’s think about things we can do right here in our county. Maybe we can serve on a board that works for change in some area, or perhaps we can support our school, the arts, volunteer firefighters, churches and missions, or volunteer at and attend sporting events in the county.
We have folks in our county who are serving on very important boards and I’ve shared some examples with you in the past months: Wallowa Superintendent Bret Uptmore serving on the state Accountability Recording Advisory Committee, Wallowa Teacher Annette Moeller on the State Teacher Advising Board and James Nash being named to the Oregon Recreation Task Force are just three. We’ll have the opportunity to honor more citizens with deep engagement in their community at the upcoming Chamber of Commerce Citizen Awards Banquet on Jan. 29.
So let’s not “despise the widow’s mite” and think only in terms of Big Things.
We all know plenty of people who are supporting the quality of life in their community in “small” ways, and as economist E.F. Schumacher said, “Small is Beautiful.”
I recommend that book, by the way.
Wallowa County is famous for its generosity, and many of you are already doing these things — but I’ve added a twist to the giving. You’re sure to spot it.
Here are some ways we can give:
• Go to the Enterprise Elementary School Book Fair (Nov. 29 to Dec. 1). New books, low prices, benefit for the school library — win, win, win. I love it when I kill three birds with one stone.
• Go to the Christmas Bazaars held in Joseph (Nov. 25-26; Dec. 2-3), Enterprise (Cloverleaf Hall, Dec. 2; Stage One, Dec. 3) and Wallowa (School Kids’ Christmas event TBA; Senior Center Bazaar, Dec. 3). The vendors at these bazaars are your neighbors and sometimes local organizations. That means the money you spend with them will return to the community (and maybe to you).
• Post a picture of your great buys at these events on your Facebook or Instagram accounts.
• Become a volunteer for the Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog races. More than a hundred people do. You’ll make new friends and have a good time doing it.
• Volunteer as a support person (or join as a team member) for the Dragon Boat team and help prepare for and run the next race (where twice the number of participants is expected).
• Volunteer for MidValley Theatre Company’s upcoming productions or a church event — tell everyone you know a story from your experience.
• Attend a Northeast Oregon Economic Development District (NEOEDD) course or class to better understand some aspect of business (and network with fellow entrepreneurs). You’ll help raise the level of business acumen in the county. Tell your friends what you learned.
• Donate to the Tree of Giving and Elks Christmas Dinner program, the Food Bank or help serve the Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 24)\. You might want to do that anonymously, but you sure don’t have to — tell your friends about it, put it in your Christmas card and encourage others to join you in enjoying the spirit of giving.
• Donate to Double Arrow Veterinary Clinic’s Good Shepherd Fund or Enterprise Animal Hospital’s Help Out Fund to help someone take care of vet bills — or to the Wallowa County Humane Society’s December pet food drive or dog coat and sweater drive during winter. Or have your pet’s picture taken with Santa at the Joseph Bazaar in December.
• Donate a good blow-down tree or your time loading wood to Wallowa Resources’ “free wood to those in need” program. Call Nils Christoffersen at Wallowa Resources to get on that volunteer list; or if you need that wood, call Community Connection.
• Tell everyone what you’re doing. Share a photo of you doing it. It’s not about bragging or “guilting.” It’s about sharing your experience of life in Wallowa County. And sharing is sharing. It’s a gift.
• Go to your city council or school board meetings. Weigh in on discussions. Be a part of decisions made in your community. Demonstrate how a mature individual puts his/her shoulder to the wheel. You’ll hear about all sorts of committees, groups and drives at these meetings and you’ll no doubt hear about one you’d like to be part of.
• Visit The Bookloft, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary, and buy a book for a friend who loves books — get it wrapped for Christmas. Post a picture of the package on Facebook and tease your friends about what it might be and who it is for.
• Lots of people give lottery tickets for Christmas gifts for workmates — how about a raffle ticket from a Divide Camp or Creating Memories fundraiser?
• Like music? Go dancing at the regular Old-Time Community dances Dec. 17 and Jan. 21 at Hurricane Creek Grange. Or take in one of our many open mic events, Tunesmith Night, live music and karaoke. Attend a concert (Wallowa Chorale Christmas Concert, Dec. 7). Make a big deal of it and dress up in “Going to the Opera” attire for fun. Take a selfie and post it. Tell all of your friends about your experience.
• Take an art class, a Zumba class, a yoga class, a riding lesson, a computer literacy class. Join a book club, create a book club, a wine-and-cheese club, a CHIP recipe exchange club, a winter walking club.
• Build a lawn chair sled for the lawn chair races at Fergi next spring. Start your Bowlby Bash downhill racer project.
• Join a gym (free classes in November at The Vault) and invite your friends to join you for a workout or class once a week.
• Take in one of those great lectures at Wallowology.
And this is key: tell everyone what you learned/did/enjoyed.
We live rich, rich lives in Wallowa County. Lives packed with experiences, adventures and fun. Share that.