Community Reflections

By Honor Schauland

St Urho’s Day in Finland always makes me really happy. It’s the one day that I can think of where I get to see a whole lot of people that I care about, they are all usually happy, we all get a lot of hugs, and candy, the sun usually comes out, there’s all kinds of options for fun activities, we can all wear crazy costumes if we want, we close down the state highway and just have a lot of fun and smile and laugh after a long winter. It’s just great. Every time, the weekend ends and I feel so much love for everyone who was there, and I am so proud of all of us, and I feel like, “This is where I belong.”

Right after St Urho’s weekend this year I was reading a book that was talking about how most people in the US have a very different kind of community in their lives than what I am used to – that in most places these days, people stay away from each other – they avoid interacting. When they do interact, they are fractured along identity lines of some kind. Given a choice, people only want to interact with other people who believe the same things they do (however they define that), so their community is their church, or their school, or their political persuasion, or whatever their own little niche identity group is – and that anyone they disagree with is considered the enemy. There’s no place or event that gives people a feeling of being part of a broader shared community.

Reading about this, I thought, “They don’t have St Urho’s Day.” And…they don’t. 

Why not?

There are so many reasons. The answer is different depending on who you are talking to. 

My answer is that we are lucky. And we should value what we have and keep it going. 

Similarly, working with Crystal Bay Township over the past year on the septic issue, as well as other mutual projects at the Clair Nelson Center, I am reminded that many other communities don’t have what we have with the Center. Many small communities have some kind of community building or meeting space, but they can’t afford to staff it, so it sits empty a lot of the time. Many bigger places have a school or a library or a YMCA that serve some kind of community center kind of function, but not everyone goes to the same place to get their need for community met. 

Once again, Finland is lucky. We have a township government, Crystal Bay Township, and a nonprofit, Friends of Finland, who are partnered together so that the Clair Nelson Center can be a resource to the community in whatever ways are needed at a given time. 

RainbowSo many different things happen here at the Center, it takes too long to describe. It needs to be experienced to make sense. And only over time does the bigger picture become clear. Over time, as people in the community attend events or stop by for information or do work or recreate together, all using the same space, amazing things happen. People get to know each other on a different level. They end up caring about each other, and they care about the Center and the land it’s on, and the town it’s in and the community that exists here, and they help each other and they keep coming back. That’s a sign of a healthy community, one that is going to continue to exist for a long time. That’s also becoming rarer and we should value what we’ve got. Change is going to happen, but Finland can create our own future while still hanging on to the important stuff, the things that make Finland Finland. Let’s not let pressure from the outside world divide us into “us” and “them.” We’re all here in Finland so that we can stand out on Highway 1 and be a little silly and smile at each other, at least one day out of the year, and sometimes more often. 

If you have questions about what Friends of Finland does, or what goes on here at the Center, please stop by! There’s usually a pot of coffee and we’re happy to explain what we do or give you a rundown of all of the upcoming happenings. 

Lastly, please donate if you are able. We write a lot of grants that allow us to do many amazing things, but donations help cover all of the hidden costs, rising costs and miscellaneous things that are harder to get grants for. It all adds up. Donate here.

Thanks again for all of your support! 

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