An invitation from OCO's executive director, Jenifer Wagley
What words can be spoken into this very long, tragic, moment of time. Oregon our grief is immense: the loss of human life, the loss of natural life, the loss of human connection which has been intensified by air that is unbreathable, our collective pain is unimaginable. From the day COVID-19 landed on our shores, to the murder of George Floyd, Jr., to today, when our beautiful state has the worst air quality in the world and many have no home to hide within, Our Children Oregon has been trying to find ways to build bridges, to heal hearts and to help our state dream together about the Oregon we all want for all of our children. These dreams seem further away now, yet our role is to hold steady the vision of an Oregon where every child thrives and has deep belonging.
The smoke outside my window is a reminder of how connected we are as a state, we are deeply interconnected. I see shared human needs of shelter, food, water, love, and clean air. The fires have devastated too much already, and so has the divisive political atmosphere in which we find ourselves. Our Children Oregon calls upon all Oregonians to stand together, united against hate, united for love, united for recovery, united for the natural beauty of this land, united for Our Children.
In this tense political point in our country’s history, division has been turned into fear and fear ignites the human response to trauma: fight, flight or flee. Trust me, I have wanted to flee from the threat of fire, the suffocating, isolation of unbreathable air, the vicious words of political adversaries. Yet, what I know is that we as humans are more than our most fear-induced reactions. Humans, Oregonians, are so much more—we are built for collaboration, compassion, and creativity. We, Oregonians, are built to stand together, and what greater uniting force than the faces and hearts of our little ones. The smallest Oregonians are watching as we collectively react to the traumas that are all around—are we teaching them the best of who we are? Who we want to be? Oregon, let us become a united force for the children of the state. Let us reject the fire of hate and blame. Let us speak the truth in love. Let us be love to one another.
We invite you to join the force for Oregon’s children today. This force will be the voice for and the hearts behind the common good of all Oregon children and youth. This common good holds the shared vision of prosperity for our entire state and is only possible when we lean into together.
Know that your kindness matters, your volunteer hours matter, your opening of homes matters, your welcoming into religious institutions to strangers matters, your donations matter, your thoughts and prayers matter, your encouraging words matter—they all matter. When Fred Rogers shared a story about how his mother taught him to cope with trauma, he said: “Look for the helpers.” And that’s what and who we envision the force to be and we know many of you are out there already. We invite you to share your Oregon Helpers stories with us, with the state, with the country, with the hashtags #ForceForOurChildren #OregonHelpers. Oregon let’s lift up the collaborative, compassionate, resilient and loving stories that are all around us—Look for the helpers, be the helpers, share the goodness in the midst.