I’ve started and stopped a few different essays for this month’s newsletter...one on the importance of honesty, one on growth mindset, one on what we all can learn from 2020. But none of them seemed quite right. It’s easy for me to sit here in my comfy warm living room and pontificate about what WE can learn from this experience, but everything I wrote rang hollow. There are so many people who lost so much this last year-- family, friends, relationships, jobs, homes, community. So it feels quite arrogant for me to think I have anything worthwhile to say that could sum up our collective experiences with 2020, because they have been wildly different. Sure, there are some common experiences -- zoom calls, empty toilet paper shelves, or the struggle to find the right mask. But as far as lessons learned, that is a very individual experience.
So I guess all I can really do that feels authentic is to share what I’ve learned, and hope that it resonates with a few of you out there -- recognizing that my experience is very different than that of so many others. So here are just a few of the many lessons I am learning.
Lesson 1: The Little Things
Every year at Christmas time, our good friend Scott sends out a Christmas letter unlike any Christmas letter I’ve ever received. In it, he chronicles the little things...things he noticed about his wife or kids that made him proud or made him laugh (usually the latter) -- things like maybe how his daughter pirouettes down the hallway or the way his son lays down next to the Malibu lights in their yard. This year, I am learning to be more like Scott...to notice and appreciate the little things. Bright pink sunrises, fresh green eggs, drizzly walks,the gift of art, the joy of Lauren’s shepherd’s pie, tuna sandwiches heavy on the relish with Mark, ridiculous zoom calls with my boys, Rammus’ specific bark when he sees Lauren. I resolve to continue to notice and cherish these small joys once things get busy again.
Lesson 2: Community
I’m inspired by the people in our community of Newberg/Dundee. I’ve watched them step up during this crisis, feeding people, organizing “gofundme”’s, opening their homes, supporting mental health, “pivoting” again and again. I am so grateful and inspired by their generosity and kindness. I am trying to be more like them. I have found some really amazing organizations to donate to (YCAP, Oregon Food Bank, World Central Kitchen, Legal Defense Fund are a few of my favorites) and have found great joy in being able to support their work. One of my favorite quotes by the great Dr King inspires me to do better: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
My community includes amazing and supportive family and friends, who I realize I have often taken for granted. I have watched the anguish of those who have lost loved ones and my heart aches. I can only pray that mine stay safe during this time. I am especially in awe of and grateful for my husband Mark, who is fixing our refrigerator as I write this and who works tirelessly to make our life together as fun, as meaningful, and as full of love as he can. He is a prince among men and I know that I am lucky (He says I should take this part out but I REFUSE!). I resolve to tell him (and all of my family) that I love them much more often.
Lesson 3: Truth = Growth
During my time as an English teacher, I was a big fan of “growth mindset.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it just means a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone, to take risks, to seek out more information, to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them. Someone with a “fixed mindset,” on the other hand, will blame others for their failure and see it as an indictment of their character or worth.
2020 was the ultimate “step out of our comfort zone” and I was so inspired by the successes -- Red Hills Market’s roller skating take out, Rosmarinos’ daily Instagram video describing their specials, Ruddick Wood feeding those who were evacuated from local fires -- and that’s just a few examples from this one community! There are so many others -- I’m sure you can think of a few yourself.
While there were many successes, there were also plenty of failures that we can learn from, mostly from our elected leaders, quite honestly, who tended to blame others and not address the problems we are facing in any meaningful way. Leaders who would hide the truth rather than admit a failure. I have realized that I would much rather be told a hard truth than live in a fantasy. With the truth, I can prepare, offer support, and do what I can to help. If I don’t know the extent of a problem, how can I prepare?
I resolve to approach 2021 with honesty and a growth mindset. To take a good long, honest look at myself and what I can improve. How can I do better? How can I be part of the solution? And I resolve to seek out the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable.
Lesson 4: Speaking Up
I have been inspired this year by the many people who stood up to protest a wrong they saw in their community -- and I am so thankful for the mostly young voices that emerged to lead us in demanding a better world. I have been especially inspired by the courage of my shop partners John, Jeremi, and Zach and their willingness to call out a wrong, often receiving backlash or losing relationships in the process. Because it’s not easy to put your voice out there. I have very different views than some members of my family or some longtime friends, so I often stay silent in order to keep the peace. But I’m realizing that if I am silent in the face of injustice, I am complicit. So I resolve to speak up more, even at the risk of straining or losing some relationships.
So that there are just a few of the things I learned from 2020, with I’m sure more lessons to come in 2021. Thank you for indulging me.
Happy New Year friends! Wishing you a more gentle, calmer, kinder year!
Hello! My name is Pam Reynolds Baker and I am a mom/wife /English teacher and lavender farmer located in Dundee, Oregon.