WRITTEN BY JENNIFER
If you are involved in nonprofit organizations in Benton County, then you know Jeff Davis. He is zealous about people and creativity, so when he learned that I create digital stories for my YouTube channel, he invited me to participate in digital storytelling workshops hosted by The Resilience Project. I don’t think I’ve found a project this well-suited for me since working at a college-level writing center five years ago. Narrative therapy and video editing? Oh, heck yeah.
Kriste York, co-founder of the Resilience Project, constantly connects people at-risk to the broader community. One of her more creative schemes came at a vulnerable time in my life. I was a young college graduate recently detached from my social circle. The Summer Games felt like a second chance at creating purpose and making a home in Corvallis. You need a team of five, Kriste told me, and have nine days to complete as many community-building challenges as possible. Bonus: the winning team receives medals from Mayor Biff Traber at a City Council meeting.
I asked a few close friends to participate. They all said no. I remember walking by Bombs Away Café after my last invite declined, facing discouragement, distracted by the live music. “Who is playing?” I asked someone standing outside for a smoke. This is how I met BK. Another night, my brother and I met up for drinks outside, and behind us a couple played a tabletop game. “What is that?” my brother asked them. The couple tried to explain, but they gave up and said, “Come play.” That night, I played Dominion with Alison. Another night, feeling lonely and bored, I went to a poetry open mic. The emcee sat next to me afterward and ordered a beer, and I met Nick.
I don’t believe in preordained events, but it was kismet asking these acquaintances to join my team. We officially became team Fit ‘N’ Greens, named for the Fitton Green County Natural Area.
Every day for nine days, our team knocked out events from the list. We painted rocks during the Sage Summer Concert and posted 100 notes of kindness all over the bus transit station. BK researched Liz Wilderson (1958-2001; one who loved and supported libraries) memorialized on a plaque near the Milne Computer Center on campus. Alison played a few bars of a Mary Had a Little Lamb on a working musical instrument of her own invention, a 2 Towns Ciderhouse bottle flute. I made videos. We made our team mascot (Alison the flamingo named Bob) a bandit that flips all the books around in the Little Free Libraries of Corvallis. Nick made a dozen copies of a poem he loves (“here is the ocean,this is the moonlight:say” by E.E. Cummings) and gave them to strangers.
Team Fit ‘N’ Greens hiked the open prairie and oak groves of Fitton Green to bury a time capsule, worth 100 points. We took turns digging through shrub leaves and gravelly clay and returning the earth upon our beloved belongings. Standing beneath an oak tree, in the green hills just west of Corvallis, I felt human again.
The next morning, our team won the Summer Games.
At the same City Council meeting where Mayor Traber honored our team with medals, a local Scout from Scout Troop 170 pitched his community leadership project. He planned to paint book spines on the pillars of the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library parking garage. The Council expressed excitement and approval for this young person’s vision. Our team was there for that, and when we visit the public library and see the splash of color in an otherwise garage of gray, we know who came to the table to make that happen. Without the Summer Games, we wouldn’t have witnessed the enthusiasm and hard work this young person put into making Corvallis a cooler place.
The challenge to do new stuff and invite strangers to play along, interact with our environment, its people, and the history of our community, all lit a fire in me. I walked out of my house every day to meet these acquaintances to complete more challenges, telling myself, “This is life. This is truly living.”
It makes me smile to think our ragtag group formed exactly how the Summer Games intended. We were strangers before a week of shenanigans. Now, I call them my friends.