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A Slice of the Pie: A teaching moment – Finding help when it’s needed most

During the past six weeks I have been dismayed by the harsh – and even sometimes hate-filled – comments I’ve read on social media.

Hauntingly similar to the public divide created by the COVID shutdown and the subsequent roll out of safety protocols, the Silver Falls School District’s budget shortfall has once again filled the community with mistrust.

I admit, it’s had me scared, worried there is no way to bridge a growing gap in public trust.

But then I saw a post from a Silverton business owner offering words of encouragement and a free drink…and then another offering discounts to those whose pay will be cut… and another offering childcare to those affected by furloughs. These people, who have known struggles of their own during the past four years, have begun offering what they can to help those who need it most.

And slowly, during the days that have followed, I’ve noticed a change. It’s like the temperature has dropped a few degrees.

Have these entrepreneurs and community members solved the problem? No. There is still a long road ahead of all of us. But they have presented a reminder of something I had forgotten, that in times of crisis, the best way through is to “look for the helpers” because, as one of the most famous quotes by the late Fred Rogers tells us, “You will always find people who are helping.”

How had I forgotten that lesson? After all, I learned it during the pandemic when children began writing inspirational quotes on sidewalks in chalk and neighbors hosted socially distanced, outdoor gatherings to stave off loneliness. And I was reminded of it again during the 2020 wildfires and the 2021 ice storm, when community members volunteered, checked-in, made meals and showed compassion for each other despite their differences.

And now, over three years since our last big community-wide struggle, it’s happening again.

On April 12, just as tensions surrounding furlough days began to build, Country Financial representative Brent Satern posted on Facebook, “To all our SFSD teachers, employees, and staff of any kind – We know how hard and stressful this week has been for you all. You deserve better. And you deserve some good news to end your week…”

Opening tabs at four Silverton restaurants, Satern bought drinks for any SFSD employee who wanted to head downtown and “soak up the sun.”

“You have the full support of our office and this community,” he wrote, “and we’ll get through this together…like we always do in Silverton. We are thankful for each and every one of you.”

That post seemed to set off a chain reaction. Businesses and community members across the city have since begun offering discounts including half-priced Yoga and a Pint classes at Silver Falls Brewery from instructor Victoria True, four weeks of free dance classes for the children of furloughed employees from the Revolutionary Dance and Movement Co., educator discounts from the Noble Fox and Serenity Home and Spa, free breathwork sessions at Gratitude Yoga from Beverly Rablin and a free meal on each of the seven furlough days from Oso.

“Silver Falls School District teachers and staff showed up,” Oso’s owner Kasey Knaus posted on Facebook after the first furlough event took place on May 3. “The minute we opened the door and all night long! Over $1100 in free meals given out. Thank you for letting us feed you… It was amazing to see so many smiling faces during a frustrating time…”

Silver Falls School District staff enjoying a free meal at Oso on the first of seven scheduled furlough days.   Courtesy of Oso
Silver Falls School District staff enjoying a free meal at Oso on the first of seven scheduled furlough days. Courtesy of Oso

Perhaps that’s because Knaus and her staff provided more than just a meal. They provided an opportunity for in-person companionship and connection away from the stress of work – something I can only imagine that those SFSD employees who attended sorely needed.

“People were connecting from table to table,” Knaus confirmed, “and we could see this sense of relaxation and commiseration; it felt very therapeutic…”

It was good for those SFSD employees who attended, and for Knaus and her staff as well. Because helping – by taking action or simply offering words of encouragement – makes everyone feel just a little bit better and reminds us all that, while looking for helpers is important, being one is even better.

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