by Kate Hoffman
Craig Thompson has never lived in a town as small as the Dalles. Originally from Eastern Washington, he spent much of his life in Seattle before recently relocating to the Columbia River Gorge. “I’ve always been a pretty positive guy with a good outlook on life. Sometimes you have a really crappy day and sometimes you have a good one! You have to be realistic.” These sentiments come from someone who doesn’t sound in need of a reminder of the mental and physical benefits of positive thinking. Let it be known – even the most stalwart optimist can learn a thing or two by being more mindful.
When Craig’s daughter suggested participating in the Gorge Happiness Month, the gregarious older gentleman was eager to give it a go. At the very least, he hoped to become a more active member of his new Dalles community and possibly make a couple friends. Though he wasn’t able to participate in as many events as he would have liked due to a family emergency, he still felt there was a wealth of value in those he completed.
“I wasn’t overly focused on daily ‘gratitudes’ or visiting the farmer’s market, as I already do those in my day-to-day life.” Luckily, Gorge Happiness Month holds something of interest and value for everyone.
What did pique Craig’s interest were community events like the Wellness Walk and trash pick-up in Lewis & Clark Park, along the Dalles waterfront. “I met a few really great younger guys, and we had a lot of fun working together.” Craig lamented the difficulty of keeping diverse friends as one matures. “Because of the age difference, it’s highly unlikely that I otherwise would have crossed paths with them.” The group spent the event engrossed in jovial conversation and their mutual love of environmental stewardship. “We were all excited to be there,” Craig recalled warmly.
Another day, while enjoying lunch alone in a local restaurant, Craig noticed a woman searching for an available place to sit. He instantly recalled a suggestion on the Gorge Happiness calendar’s daily “Act of Kindness”, and invited her to share his table. “We had a wonderful thirty-minute conversation. If it wasn’t for having this project in the back of my mind, I probably would never had thought to do that.”
Craig’s desire to immerse himself in his new town is familiar. Whether we’ve lived here for two years, ten years or a lifetime, we frequently put off getting to know our neighbors, or joining that local sports, crafting or book club we’ve had our eye on. Having a daily reminder to nurture ourselves and our relationships creates a direct conduit to a happier, healthier life as individuals, and to a happier, healthier community overall.
Even when he wasn’t checking off activities, Craig was still thinking about them. “It made me more aware of my surroundings and interactions as I moved about my day.” Many of his new neighbors are different than him in a variety of ways, and “this daily mindfulness focus reminded me that we are all people,” not obstacles or objects, as it can often feel when trying to navigate the bustle of everyday life.
Most importantly, Craig concluded, “the Gorge Happiness Project reminded me to be human”, and compassion for our fellow humans is something of which we can never, ever have too much.