“Is Sisters a Welcoming Community for All?”

That was the focus of February’s Let’s Talk — a monthly community conversation sponsored by Citizens4Community. Twenty-two community members joined in the evening to reflect on a topic that relates directly to a priority noted in the Sisters Country Vision Action Plan.

As participants arrived for the talk they were asked to consider three questions (posed in English and Spanish): “What does it mean to be welcoming?” “What does ‘community’ mean to you?” and “When we say ‘all,’ who do we mean?”

Participants wrote their answers on a poster (see responses below). When you ask yourself these questions, what comes to mind for you? Do you find your answer with the lists below or would you have added something else?

As is true for all Let’s Talks, we began with a short skill-builder session. This month we focused on listening—listening with curiosity and openness and without interruption. We practiced using this skill as we created lists of what we love most about our community of Sisters. We then shared our own stories of feeling “welcome” and “unwelcome” in different spaces.

The evening’s final question further explored Connected Sisters Strategy 4 from the Vision Action Plan. Centered around diversity and inclusion, the strategy is to: Bring our less-frequently heard voices into a more diverse, welcoming and inclusive community conversation, fostering greater tolerance in the community, helping newcomers as well as longtime residents to feel valued and supported. When asked where there are opportunities for Sisters to become more welcoming, participants expressed a desire to raise awareness of the lived experiences of our youth, homeless, Latinx and LGBTQ communities in Sisters.

Brené Brown speaks of the “high-lonesome” culture we are living in right now. Humans are hard-wired for belonging, relationships and community. We yearn to be truly seen and known by someone else. Yet 40 percent of Americans report feeling loneliness; and research says that stems from a lack of meaningful social interactions—among families, friendships and communities.

Is Sisters a welcoming community for all? What do you think? As you consider this, I encourage you to ask yourself: “Where are there opportunities for Sisters to become more welcoming for you? For all? What’s the story we want to tell about Sisters in five, 10 and 20 years? What is one thing you might do to help Sisters continue its journey toward being a welcoming place for all?

Let’s Talk runs 5:45 to 8 p.m. the third Monday of each month at Paulina Springs Books, 252 W. Hood Ave. For the March 16 talk, participants voted to discuss the topic, “How Can Sisters Maintain its Authenticity While Embracing Change?” Want to attend? Please go to the C4C website, Citizens4Community Events, to RSVP and save your seat.

Kirstin Anglea is a board member of C4C, Dare to Lead trained (Brené Brown), a facilitator with the Center for Courage and Renewal and licensed educator.