I like to think of myself as being a positive person. I work hard not to let things get me down, and mostly I succeed. But recently, avoiding the winter blues has been harder than usual.
The weather’s part of the problem. In a season that puts an average of 22 inches of snow on the ground over several months, we had a single storm nearly meet that mark on Dec. 14 (17 inches). January saw another 31 inches fall, according to the Weather Warehouse website. You know what happened Tuesday night.
That does nothing for one’s sense of humor. Neither do the things people are willing to say to and about one another in the comments sections of many websites when they can mask their true identities. Surely, their mothers taught them the basic rules of polite behavior, including the ones about not calling each other names.
All of this made a meeting I had late last week especially meaningful. I talked with Romy Mortensen of Brooks Resources, Noelle Fredland of the Old Mill District and Marie Melsheimer of Campbell Consulting about something called the Bend Joy Project. You may have seen the project’s billboard on the Bend Parkway or one of the banners hanging in a variety of places.
Or you may have been handed a reddish-orange card saying “beauty resides in kind action” or “forgive” or “giggles & grins are free” or one of 33 other messages. All, and more, are part of the project.
Fredland, who is marketing director at the Old Mill District, and the folks she works with came up with the idea last summer when, it seemed to them, grumpiness was growing by leaps and bounds. It was getting so bad, she says, that it was beginning to affect the children she knows. And while the Old Mill District generally advertises in an effort to draw people to its stores, restaurants and theater, this first two months of 2017 it decided to do something new.
Thus the Bend Joy Project was born. Nowhere, by the way, in any of the project’s materials, will you find a reference to the Old Mill District. This is not a marketing campaign, at least not one designed to persuade you to open your wallet.
Rather, it’s an attempt to nudge us to stop and think about what sort of impact our words have on others. If we greet others with a sense of gratitude about what we have, rather than concern about what we lack, we’re likely to be more pleasant. And, as those around us can mirror our own state of mind, we may just find they’re more pleasant, as well.
Moms and dads know this, particularly when their children are small. You remember the saying, “when Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” and you know how true it can be even for non-moms.
The project, meanwhile, has caught on in a variety of places. The Bend City Council listened to a presentation about it at its most recent meeting. Several schools around town are planning projects to memorialize the idea, including Oregon State University-Cascades.
The Broomsmen, a local business that does setup and cleanup for weddings and other events, as well as recycling and waste removal, dug one family out of the snow every day for free during the extended storm we had in December and January.
And, in fact, for all the discomfort the snow brought, it brought pleasure, too.
I know some newspaper carriers had more trouble than others in getting papers to customers in a timely fashion, though I suspect most tried. Mine, Delmar Pollard, was one who succeeded. Each morning at about 4 o’clock, I heard the thwack of the paper hitting my driveway, as I do every morning, good weather or bad. I appreciate that. Newspaper subscribers D. Shrum of Redmond and Diana Strand of Sunriver also had kind words for carriers who managed to overcome the snow without fail.
The Bend Joy Project will end its official run soon, but I hope its message doesn’t disappear. Remembering to thank those who help us, to acknowledge those who do a good job, and to commit other random acts of verbal kindness make the world a better place and make us happier in the process.
— Janet Stevens is deputy editor of The Bulletin. Contact: 541-617-7821 or firstname.lastname@example.org.