By Don Nelson
If there’s anything this community likes to do more than head off in disparate directions to every corner of the place for work, recreation or habitation, it’s to gather somewhere near the middle – often with meritorious intent, other times just for the sake of being with each other.
Getting together is a Methow tradition that goes back more than a century, to the pioneer days when a scattered and mostly threadbare population created neighborliness and common cause in school houses, stores, dance halls, any building big enough to accommodate a couple of families or more.
That seeking of company was both needful and practical. Remote as they were from the rest of the world, the Methow’s early stalwarts understood without really discussing it, as we gabby contemporaries are inclined to do, that their singular independence was premised on necessary interdependence. So they learned to help each other out, one-by-one or in congregate efforts, because that’s what we do here.
The Methow’s remarkable generosity is not self-serving or motivated by the adulatory bling of recognition. Many of the largest contributions or matching grants to support local causes and needs have been made anonymously, or with such little fanfare and modesty that it would be impolite to ask “how much.” Donors with the ability and inclination to make noteworthy impacts don’t care about the attention. They care about results.
In the Methow, the results are evident and observable. Things get built. Things get done. People get the help they need. More than money, it’s volunteerism that undergirds action in the valley. It would be instructive to figure out how many donated hours accumulate here in any year. Their value is incalculable.
These were some of the things I was thinking about last weekend at the annual Room One Soup Dinner, about as enjoyable an evening as you can imagine. The decorations were lovely, the food was wonderful, the company was delightful. For all that entertainment value – and it was a rollicking good time – it was the cause that brought us into the Barn for black bean quinoa chili, chicken mulligatawny, posole with pork and the notorious “cake frenzy.”
Room One is a community-grown organization that has cobbled together, through sheer persistence and constant creativity, a collection of vital human services whose absence would be devastating to many of our neighbors. Executive Director Elana Mainer, in an impassioned narrative – you couldn’t really call it a speech – had us holding our breaths as she talked about the profoundly human mission at the center of Room One’s work. She evoked the notion of community voice, a chorus of caring that need not be loud as long as it is harmonious.
Hardly a week goes by in the Methow without some similarly intentioned event on the calendar. If anyone is tired of the non-stop convening over shared interests, I haven’t heard them say so. We are still needful, still practical, still interdependent, still mindful that there is no individual contribution so powerful as that collective promise we make to each other. It’s what we do.
Don Nelson is publisher of the Methow Valley News.