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People Out Loud: Mr. In-between – Seeing the edges, listening to each community

Editor’s note: Dixon Bledsoe invited a guest columnist for this month. We’ll let Fred Vandecoevering introduce himself… 

Growing up a farm boy north of Mount Angel I never have belonged.  I started out at Monitor Elementary. Well, Monitor itself as a school had an identity crisis. 

Half the kids lived in Marion County, half in Clackamas. Of the ones living in Clackamas at that time, some went to Silverton Union High and some went to Molalla. So you see, it was in-between.

When I was 11 my parents made a move to the west five miles that threw me – violently (I thought at least) – into the Woodburn School District. Starting there as a 6th grader with no one I knew, it might as well have been the planet Mars. 

While at the same time, our basis for our faith community was Mount Angel. You see, our new home was half-way in-between Mount Angel  and Woodburn. I finished high school in Woodburn, never really belonging.

Well, I went on to community college and finished in agri-business and went home to farm, get married, have a family, quit farming, and go to work for UPS.

I settled a whole half mile from the farm, where I currently live.  In-between. I have a Woodburn address, a Monitor telephone number, belong in Mount Angel Fire District, and Silver Falls School District. Whew! Again in-between!

And so now we live in a world where division is king. You are made to believe you must be in one camp or another, being in the middle ground of any issue is by some, seen as betraying your beliefs. I have had quite of bit of experience staking out middle ground, or you might say, in-between. One of the things I am not “in-between” is the fact that respecting each other’s opinion is essential to a community that can work together to thrive. 

All of these small communities are woven together. From Silverton to Mount Angel, Drakes Crossing to Monitor, Scotts Mills to Pratum, McKee to Evans Valley. And here I sit in an area once know as Grassy Pond. We are held together by family connections, schools, businesses, faith communities. 

But as strong as those connections are, we need to be open to the coloring in-between the lines. The people that bring new ideas, perspective, flavor, and energy. We need to welcome those seeking what all of these connections have created. 

We have a stable base of decades old families that value the peace and natural beauty we have. They value tradition and faith. But with each person that moves in comes new perspective. Those that have those deep ties need to share that stability with those moving here and be open to their ideas. Those moving here need to respect the people that have established those ties.

I get a unique view of the communities I am involved with. Always looking from “in-between.” It serves me very well these days. I can appreciate what it is like being a newcomer in an old community like Silverton or Mount Angel. How can you serve one community when you are part of four? A person needs to see how others cope. And to see how others cope, I believe you need to stay in-between. You can relate from that position easier because you can see the edges from there. If you live out your life on the edges, it’s much harder to see clear over to the other side. 

I am not saying being in-between is giving up your voice. I have been on boards and committees in all the communities I described above. 

In-between, people listen, people see needs of others, and can understand the people on the edges better. 

So if you are tired of life on the edge, join me, Mr. In-between.

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