The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Working together best means of accomplishment


September 15, 2015

A recent National Geographic magazine article tells the story of a team of five bold, experienced adventurers who attempted to summit a remote peak in Myanmar (Burma), one of the most challenging mountains in the world.

It was brutal – nearly fatal for at least one.

But one of the obstacles was themselves – particularly when they got into an argument over who was going to make the final effort to reach the top. There was frank talk and some rancor as they discussed who had what it took to make it.

The writer of the article stated at one point in reference to the experience, “Nothing is so damning in the mountains than hubris; yet hubris is fundamental to climbing mountains.”

That dichotomy is true in other contexts as well, in Sweet Home.

On the front page of today’s newspaper we report about a conflict between two groups who essentially have the same goal: to organize a Christmas parade for Sweet Home. Conflict has arisen, though, in the fact that the Chamber of Commerce is attempting to take an increased role in the event, which steps on the toes of a small group of organizers who have almost singlehandedly kept the parade alive in recent years.

Since 2010, when the chamber announced the parade wasn’t going to happen, these volunteers, led by Sue Olson and her daughter Debbie Walvatne, have seized the initiative and done the footwork to make sure the parade happened. They’ve organized themselves as the Parade Committee, generally with little or no support from the beleaguered chamber, and gotten the job done.

Katrina Crabtree has managed the chamber since late last spring, with help from her mother, Arlene Paschen, who is one of the eight current board members. Together, they have made some significant strides in raising the organization to heights it, quite frankly, hasn’t seen in recent years for a wide variety of reasons that we won’t list here. This team has some big ideas.

With support from the board, they’ve established a gift shop that specializes in the work of Sweet Home artists and crafters. They’ve recruited new members.

Christmas is clearly one of Paschen’s interests. In recent years, she has made great efforts, along with other local folks, to build the holiday celebration in Sweet Home – working to coordinate events for greater effect, arranging for publicity, recruiting artists to create the Christmas card displays that have popped up around town.

These people have demonstrated energy and vision.

So have the Olsons.

Back to our story from the mountainside: The climbers were high above the tree line, in howling, icy winds that produced temperatures so severe that hypothermia was a constant threat, along with instant death from falls on the sheer, icy cliffs. They were running out of food, so their time was limited. Some had more experience in these conditions than others.

After an uncomfortable evening of finger-pointing, bad blood and general incivility, they worked it out. The two who were least experienced, one of whom had already fallen victim to a severe case of hypothermia and had to be rescued by her comrades, acquiesced.

They had to. They had to stick together or they’d likely all be dead.

Obviously, to draw a direct parallel here with what’s happening between the factions of Christmas Parade planners would be an overreach. But the principles do apply.

Sweet Home is a small community. Although we have a tremendous tradition of volunteerism, attested by examples too numerous to list here, we have a fairly small pool of individuals who have the time, energy and commitment to make things such as Christmas parades happen.

Why is pretty obvious. Watch the line of cars heading north and south on Highways 20 and 228 early in the morning. People who live here commute to work. That’s where they spend their time and a lot of their energy – elsewhere.

So our pool of volunteers is a little smaller than it might be if circumstances were different – like how things were years ago when more local residents had jobs in town.

In some ways, we’re not unlike the five mountaineers. If we want to accomplish things, it helpful – and maybe necessary – to work together.

It’s pretty obvious that there are some significant – and understandable differences of opinion here and our role isn’t to determine who’s right, even if we could. But we do know that if we want our parade – whether it’s a nighttime affair with lights or simply what we’ve had in the past – to be as good as it can be, the players on both sides need to put aside their hubris enough to work together.

After all, this is Christmas we’re talking about.


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