Lisa Cena, 42, at her home

Lisa Cena, 42, at her home

Darlene introduced me to Lisa. They crossed paths here and there and now Lisa's children participate in the art classes over at Base Camp, so they've gotten to know each other over the years. Lisa told me that just after she made a new commitment to participate more fully in community, Darlene reached out to her about this project. Funny how things happen like that, isn't it? Lisa and I had a lovely conversation in which we both expressed a desire for change and growth while recognizing and admitting not having all the answers. I believe there's a lot of power in admitting we don't know. I'd love to see us all coming together to support one another for the greater good and communicating and listening about how best to do that. Lisa left the impression on me that she really cares about our path forward and moving in that direction together. She was so obviously sincere and thoughtful and seemed quite comfortable in those characteristics. I can't help but assume she's like that all of the time. 

Who are you and how would you describe yourself?

Hmmm. Who am I? I would say right now my primary role is a mom and a wife and a friend and community member. I'm also an occupational therapist; that's my career - doesn't necessarily define me, but it's part of who I am and how I interact with people. Yeah, causes me to pause and look at the whole person and their experience and their history, I think, when I meet them. So I don't think that'll ever go away. 

What matters to you or what motivates you?

It might sound a little bit trite, but trying to be as good of a person or better of a person than my kids think I am. So, trying to be a really good model right now for kindness to people; that's been my real big focus, I would say. I've been very intentional about that. 

What do we mean to each other - individual to individual - as we go about our daily routine? 

I think people can look at it both ways; you can choose to not mean anything to those around you and not pause to notice, I guess, or you can look at it as an opportunity for connection. I think that's where a divide can come. Especially in a place that is experiencing a big influx of lots of people at once. You definitely have a choice. That's a big question. 

Yeah. Where do you stand on that?

I am definitely on the connection piece right now. Whether it's taking my kids to the bottle drop shop so they can see all sides of Bend or if it's how I interact with people who are serving us in the community; whether it's at the grocery store or filling my tank up with gas or just pointing out when people are being kind. Yeah, I'm definitely looking more for connection. And at my work, especially, I treat people all day long who are from very diverse backgrounds; whether it's someone who is involved with rodeo or someone who's a gardener or just the whole diverse group of what brings us to Bend. So, I'm in a lucky place, I think, because I do step out of my normal circle of who I would interact with just walking my kids to school, being with the same parents in the same neighborhood and similar ideas. Versus work, where I'm treating people from all over Central Oregon, if not Eastern Oregon, so it helps with connection and understanding someone who might have different political views, but we're still experiencing the same desires to love and love other people. So that, to me, really fills me when I'm at work. I feel really lucky here. 

What do you think the source of your desire for that connection is? And what does community mean to you? 

I think the source of my desire for that is that it just feels good. I went through this period of a little bit of sadness a couple years ago because I was noticing that I would... I tend to walk everywhere; I don't like to drive very much... and I was noticing that I wasn't crossing paths with people that I recognized. Like, I could go a couple of days and not see a face that I knew. Whereas before, it was like I couldn't go to the grocery store without running into people everywhere. I just think some reflection on what that felt like - feeling a little bit... I wouldn't say lonely, but just noticing a difference and not feeling a community tie by not seeing the familiar faces. So maybe that's what has driven me to do that. And hearing a lot of negative thoughts about growth has made me want to be a little bit more proactive in my attempts for interactions and active listening. Yeah, trying to put out what I want to get back, I guess. 

My argument is that community is super important and that connection piece is vital, but how do you get people on board if they don't necessarily feel that way?

I think, regardless of what people say, we all need community. About 12 years ago, my husband and I did the Camino de Santiago, where you walk across Spain. It's 500 miles and there were definitely days where I was like, I want to be by myself. I don't want anyone around me. I just need quiet. And it was impossible. But by the end of the experience, I had this epiphany of like, You may feel like you need to be by yourself, but you can't exist by yourself. We have to have that community. And to have other people realize that - I don't know how you could do that. I've been enjoying the Bend Joy Project and seeing the signs for, you know, Practice kindness and all these what I would define as good values to keep us in that place. But I don't know if it has to be a life event or a health scare or what, but I think under it all, we all need community. 

What concerns you?

When you stop caring and noticing people. When I walk around and I see people looking down at their phones and not doing eye contact anymore. When I go overseas or go to a youth hostel and people aren't sitting across from each other and talking or being on a bus or a train and looking up and interacting. And it's more of an internal focus or a device focus. That's what kind of scares me at this point, I would say. I think that separates us. Even though people may say they're more connected with their social media stuff, we're kind of losing how to make a phone call or write a letter or talk or get to a deeper place than just a quick text that says, I'm fine - or whatever. I think that's probably what scares me the most...

I see the same thing underneath all of different social justice causes and it's a need for equality. So, if equality is the goal, why can't we just focus on that and come together? How do you feel about social injustice? What does it mean to you as a white woman, professional, mom? 

Well, it's interesting because my kids go to a great school that has a lot of funding and you like trip over parent volunteers in the hallway, so you can't really have two full-time working parents there. So that, right there, is a pretty big inequality. We were just talking about, a couple weeks ago, So our school raises a ton of money and is able to be really supported and there are other schools in the area that don't have that same support and why couldn't we just share some of that and spread that out? And the response that we heard was, Well, the money that we raise by our parents should be for the school. And I can see that, but then... I mean, it's an elementary school. So I feel like we're starting at a really young place of inequality. There is a section of town that has a lot more resources... so I just feel like you're set up to already have inequality from kindergarten. Versus when my daughter went to another school to do like a reading buddy program, they brought books over there and the kids didn't have as many books and the teachers said they don't even send home the Scholastic Guides where families can order books because they know the kids wouldn't be able to afford 'em. And so, that's starting at a young place. 

What I'm doing? I don't... I don't know how I'm fixing the problem except for maybe just talking about it, I guess. And taking my kids to all different places in the community. And when we see people who might be homeless we try and have food in our car to share or hand warmers or whatnot - just to try to put us on equal ground. That we're still human and we can have eye contact and... 

The other day I was walking my kids home from school and there was someone walking towards us and he asked me how to walk to La Pine. And we were on Portland [Ave]. And I said, You're walking to La Pine? And he said, Yeah. How do I get there? And he was walking the wrong way and it was 80 degrees outside and his backpack was like two feet taller than his head, his glasses were broken and askew. And I didn't know how to handle that and support that. So we paused and asked him how we could help him, turn him around, and get him to downtown and if I could get him something to eat. So, anyway, just little experiences like that where I'm still, I guess, just modeling how to help people around us and that there are people who aren't in our same situation. 

Do you have a sense of purpose?

I don't know. We all have to have purpose to get up out of bed in the morning and move forward. I don't know how I would define that. I would have to really think about that. 

What do you want more of in your life? 

I always want more nature - more outdoors. In the summertime, we try and spend as many nights as possible in a tent. Like, two years ago we realized we'd only slept in our house one weekend of the whole summer and we were in a tent every other (laughs), whether it was here or somewhere else. So, yeah, that really fills me. So I want more nature. I feel like I'm more grounded and I can be more peaceful in how I interact with my family and those around me. 

Do you have anything else you'd like to put out there?

Just that it's really important to put out what you want to get back from our community and we can all work together for that.