Community gatherings show hope during holiday season

NORTH BEND - Between the few hours of daylight and the many unmet expectations for happiness that plague the holiday season, it's sometimes necessary to make a conscious effort to counter the gloom.

  • Thursday, October 2, 2008 2:30pm
  • News
Community gatherings show hope during holiday season

NORTH BEND – Between the few hours of daylight and the many unmet expectations for happiness that plague the holiday season, it’s sometimes necessary to make a conscious effort to counter the gloom.

That’s what a small group of Valley residents have been doing each Sunday afternoon at the Community Hope Gatherings.

They meet for about a half hour, drink cocoa, light candles, carry signs, talk or just stand in silence at Gardiner Weeks Park in North Bend.

“It’s a kind of a protest against despair,” said Lee Hartman, who started the activity. “It’s a belief in the goodness that is still possible in our world and in ourselves. There is something very positive in the air when two or more people stand together in that simple hope.”

Lyle McRae has been attending regularly. His blues stem from the current political landscape.

“After the election there was a period of mourning. [The Community Hope Gathering] was a way to help deal with it,” McRae said. “I feel the biggest problem in the U.S. is that people aren’t involved, so I’m just trying to get involved.”

McRae sees the gathering as a way to connect with people.

“People just don’t connect like they used to,” said McRae, a software developer from North Bend. “The houses are getting bigger, the cars are getting bigger and people are getting more isolated. It’s easier to stay away from your neighbors than connect with them, so there’s a lot of scared and lonely people out there.”

Though Hartman is a Christian, the gathering is secular. She not only welcomes, but encourages people of all beliefs to attend. “The church itself is unintentionally exclusive at times; that’s why it’s important to me that this be public,” said Hartman, a graduate student of theology.

“The intention of the gathering is to be open to radically different views and still stand together. That’s the bigger hope because it doesn’t work for one view to want to talk to another one so it changes the other one. The idea is to invite different views to be open to each other and stand together.”

Hartman said the holidays seem to be a time when people confront reality, which may be easier to avoid at other times of the year.

“If Christmas only means the shopping mall to you, on some deep level we object to that because we’re made for meaning. When we don’t recognize true meaning around us, we’re not OK with that and I think that’s more noticeable … harder to pack away at Christmas time.”

All are invited to join in the next Community Hope Gatherings at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 19 and 26 at Gardiner Weeks Park, behind the Mount Si Senior Center alongside Bendigo Boulevard. The gathering’s designated location is very intentional, Hartman said. It’s safe from traffic but also located by a bridge, which is symbolic of “our impasse in our own lives this time of year … that there’s a way over these troubles if we’re willing to trust a bigger hope out there.”

“I do it to hope for the world,” said Jane Huestis, a second-grader at Opstad Elementary who comes to the gatherings. “And I hope that wars stop, and that everybody gets along together.”

“It’s really, really fun,” said J. T. Hartman, Huestis’ second-grade pal and Lee’s son, who also joins the gatherings. “It’s fun to have people there that help us.”

Staff Writer Melissa Kruse can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at

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