Creating Connection Across Oregon

Bridging Oregon and Dear Stranger are starting conversations about the places we call home.

Gary Calicott

Over the course of four months this spring, two dozen Oregonians gathered at the Crook County Library in Prineville to talk. They came from all over Central Oregon—from Bend and Prineville, Culver and Redmond, Terrebonne and Warm Springs. They talked about social and political divides in their region, about the place they call home and what they owed to the other who live there.

The gatherings in Prineville were part of Bridging Oregon, a series of conversations between communities around Oregon that are being presented by Oregon Humanities with the support of the Oregon Community Foundation. Participants in Bridging Oregon explore topics relevant to their local area and learn to facilitate further conversations within their communities.

“The power of reflective conversation is not in what we talk about; it is in how we talk with each other and in how we better understand and connect with each other,” says Yoko Ikeda, a therapist living in Bend who participated in the Central Oregon conversations.

Bridging Oregon will continue this fall in Southern Oregon, with conversations taking place in Grants Pass and Medford. Participants will meet four times over four months, twice in each city.

These local conversations are great opportunities to build new connections across communities, but they don’t include people beyond those communities. That’s where Dear Stranger comes in.

Dear Stranger is a letter-exchange project that connects Oregonians from different parts of the state through the mail. Participants write a letter addressed to a stranger and send it to Oregon Humanities. Letters are then swapped anonymously so that each writer gets a letter from the person who received theirs. 

For this year’s edition of Dear Stranger, we’re asking people from all over the state to consider some of the questions at the heart of Bridging Oregon: Write about the place where you live or a community you feel at home in. What makes it unique or unusual? Is there anything about your place or your community that you feel is misunderstood by people outside of it? What might help people understand it better?

To participate, send a letter and Dear Stranger release form (available at oregonhumanities.org) to Dear Stranger, c/o Oregon Humanities, 921 SW Washington St., Suite 150, Portland, OR 97205. Letters received through October 26, 2018, will be exchanged. Visit the Dear Stranger page or call (503) 241-0543, ext. 122, to learn more.

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