This afternoon I attended an Accelerate Bend workshop. The four hour discussion was a wide ranging analysis of the specific topic “Safe healthy people” for our city. Our suggestions are to be sent to the various city groups as suggestions for implementation. We had no official power, only recognized civic input. However, most of the people there did hold some office. The tone of the meeting was quite professional, except for me, of course. I always feel an outsider in these kind of settings. The twelve ideas developed in the smaller brainstorm discussions were brought to the general group, in the form of brief presentations by a member of the smaller group. They were voted upon and were expanded upon in a format that will be presented to official groups like the city council. Some representatives of these groups were present.
As a reader of this blog might expect, my ideas were a bit unusual and when I presented them caused a bit of a gasp, but I think they were valued. My favorite suggestion for improving the health and safety of our already beautiful city and citizens was to improve the quality of kindness of our citizens. I proposed we do this by having a Kindness Festival. As I posted a few days ago we had a wonderful Animal Parade on the 4th of July, with the remarkable feature of thousands of dogs and other animals going on parade in a very cheerful way. That is proof positive of the very comfortable interrelationships existing between our citizens because the dogs reflect perfectly the attitudes of their human companions.
We have a tourist city sandwiched between the heavily forested Cascade mountain range with a few 10,000 foot peaks a short drive away to the west, and a 200 mile by 200 mile expanse of wilderness to the east. The city itself has been beautified with lots of public art projects and lots of parks. Can you imagine a town of under a hundred thousand with twenty-one golf courses? Plus, skiing close by most of the year, and rafting and canoeing through the middle of town through a huge carefully manicured park? It is fantastic! You can see that this little city is a heaven if only you stop occasionally and look around.
It is the high emotional tone that already exists here in this isolated little city that makes me think this is the perfect place to have a Kindness Festival. A considerable percentage of these people are already friendly and when I check around and talk to people about their motivations it soon becomes obvious they are living their daily lives well beyond the soft versions of the Golden Rule, “Be nice to people and they will be nice to you.” These people are nice to other people because they want those other people to be leading happy, healthy lives. They want to live in a community of happy people and they get that happiness by manifesting it to each other. Back in the big cities of California where I spent the last fifty years I can’t imagine an average stranger, one might meet on the street, greeting another stranger with the attitude, “I want to help you have a good day. What can I do for you now.” Here in Bend that is almost the expected attitude it is so common and I bring up again the dogs’ attitudes to other dogs and to people unknown to them.
I don’t know exactly what a Kindness Festival would be like, but what I would like to see would be an afternoon where people felt free, even expected, to greet perfect strangers and converse with them. Asking questions or making suggestions like, “How can I help you today?” “Do you have any suggestions on how to make our city better?” “There are some beautiful views of the mountains reflected over Mirror Pond just through that passageway.”
It would be fun to work up a long list of simple little statements like that and pass them out on business cards to the public on that day. And then exchange cards during the day. Perhaps this could grow beyond Bend.
What a wonderful thing to have a World Kindness Day with everyone swapping kindnesses.