It is the wonderful week between Christmas and a new year, a time for spiritual renewal including for many of us pondering the words of Jesus, as well as commitments to ourselves of something better in the next year. As we get older our thoughts are less and less about ourselves and more and more about others and our commitment to community. It is in this light that we might reflect on what rural Oregon needs to protect itself from storms ahead.

It is hard to imagine a finer place to live than Union County and the same could be said for much of rural Oregon. The reasons for this are numerous and familiar to the readers requiring only a quick glance out the window, a slow conversation over coffee with a neighbor or a ride in the mountains. I would live no where else. However, there are problems that have the potential to spread like weeds.

The problems are not unique to rural areas in Oregon but take on particular characteristics here. The answer to these problems can be found in the words of Christ that favor selflessness over selfishness, generosity over greed and productivity over the love of money.

Rural areas are more dependent on entrepreneurship and small businesses than urban or suburban areas. It is important the tax structure and state and federal rules and regulations support small business, especially if they contribute to the community generously through the provision of jobs or services such as low income housing. Businesses that contribute to their community need to be rewarded.

Ruralites do not live as long nor as healthily as urbanites. We need to incentivize the healthcare system to provide healthcare to our community in its entirety and see the community as its most important patient. No residents should be allowed to go without care. All children should be vaccinated. All patients should be treated. This prevents the spread of disease and poor health through unhealthy lifestyle contagion.

More ruralites live in poverty than urbanites. We need to make sure all our people have reasonable shelter and food, especially families with children. Failure to do so will just create more problems for future generations as the chickens come home to roost. It is the trauma often associated with poverty that is so damaging.

We need to excel at educating our children. Along with reading, writing, coding and arithmetic both work ethic and a hands on familiarity with building things. Without a work ethic productivity will stagnate. Without an ability to build things the next generation will not be able to build their future. We could consider year round schooling with the summers devoted to specific building skills such as welding, coding, carpentry, cooking and textiles.

Perhaps to instill a true sense of service in our young adults we need a mandatory year of service prior to college based on the depression era Civilian Conservation Corps, in which young people of all backgrounds live and work together to make their community a better place.

Finally, we can recognize that multinational corporations are playing us for fools. They are selling us "goods" intentionally designed to be highly addictive including food, actual addictive drugs like nicotine and alcohol, movies, video games, consumer goods etc. When they get us "hooked" they suck us dry of our financial resources feeding the extraordinary wealth of the few. We need to educate our community and immunize them against the need for more. After all, people were just as happy and free as we have ever been in the time of Jesus when he threw the moneychangers out of the temple.

We need to get over partisanship and stop dividing ourselves into Democrats versus Republicans, liberals versus conservatives. We need to get on with taking care of our neighbors and our community. A divided house falls.

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