harvesters two sisters children picking autumn grapes steve henderson

Community Giving — All Year Round

harvesters two sisters children picking autumn grapes steve henderson

What is a community, really, but a family of human beings who share their resources? The Harvesters, by Steve Henderson

Life happens.

And while there are other, more expressive ways of voicing this observation — some singularly  inappropriate for the family newspaper — the intimation is the same: people lose their jobs, get sick, or have an accident, resulting in life not going on the way it did before.

art of peel chef painting ken auster

Food is a celebration, a necessity, and a gift. Art of a Peel by Ken Auster

When we learn of another’s pain, our common response as decent human beings is to feel a sense of sympathy, sometimes going beyond this to see what we can tangibly do to help our fellow humans in their distress. After all, we realize, the unexpected blows of life can hit any of us, at any time.

But sometimes, in our effort to keep our own world secure and safe (because who wants to feel that we can be hit, randomly, by a meteorite?) we probe and parse the issue:

“I bet he was texting too much at work. Maybe a little alcohol problem there, too, eh?”

“I heard she smoked a lot when she was younger. It was lung cancer, wasn’t it?”

“All those kids in the car making noise — it’s a clear case of distraction and not paying attention. Distracted driving is against the law in this state.”

We Are a Community of Family, and Families

And then, once we imagine a possible cause unlikely to mirror any in our own experience, we’re off the hook when it comes to feeling compassion, because, really, the person sort of deserved what they got. It’s tempting to assign a mental number to the tragedy — with 1 accorded very little sympathy because the person acted foolishly and really should have foreseen the consequences and 10 scoring high because this tragedy was in no way the person’s fault.

candleman winter fantasy snow james christensen

Things seem bleaker, and colder, in the winter, especially after the holidays. Candleman by James Christensen

But there are problems with this natural tendency to sort through our world and makes sense of it by classification, notably,

  1. We are not gods, and never, ever know the full situation, and
  2. Because we are not gods, we chronically, consistently, and masterfully make very human mistakes, many of which frequently do not — fortunately for us — result in our getting the desserts we “deserve.” But sometimes . . . they do.

A wise person once said that the criteria we use to judge others will turn around and be used thusly on us ourselves, and if this is so, it is sensible to approach the misfortunes of others with compassion, understanding, thoughtfulness, and empathy — reactions we ourselves embrace with relief when undergoing our own trials.

Supporting Our Community

It is with this awareness that Pat and Ed Harri, the owners of Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, started an annual canned food drive at the gallery, with everything collected during the month of January dedicated to the Community Food Bank in Dayton.

“We purposely chose January, because during the Christmas season, there is so much focus on gift-giving and celebration that once you are over the seasonal holidays, people are almost burnt out,” Pat explains.

Canned food community drive wenaha gallery

It’s a sculpture of canned food, representing the bounty given by community members to the Dayton Food Bank

“But when it comes to helping people, this is a need that exists all year. And January can be a very cold, bleak month.”

Entering somewhere around its tenth year (Pat isn’t sure), the Annual Canned Food Drive regularly brings in some 500 pounds of food, spanning everything from tuna fish and diced tomatoes to artisan chocolate bars and organic sugar. The gallery collects it through the month and creates an artistic display, one that changes as new items are dropped off.

Having Fun Giving Back

“We’ve had several  people through the years who really get into the spirit of the giving,” Pat says. “They go shopping especially for our canned food event, and ask themselves — ‘What would I buy to put in my own cupboard?’ and that’s what they bring.” Others burrow through their pantries and gather largesse. All leave off their wares with a sense of satisfaction and joy.

It’s fun — and humbling — to see what arrives each day, Pat adds, and by the end of the month, what starts out as a trickle winds up as a flood. Before food bank volunteers arrive to cart the food away, the gallery staff enjoys setting up the totality and taking a photo, adding with it their own warm wishes to fellow community members who are going through a tough time.

“The cans of food that people bring in are gifts — gifts to people in our community who are having a hard time and need encouragement from others,” Pat says. “I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of the people in this area.”

Wenaha Gallery

The Annual Canned Food Drive is the featured Art Event  at Wenaha Gallery from Thursday, December 28 through Wednesday, January 31, 2018.  During this time, for every can or non-perishable item of food brought into the gallery, the giver will receive $2 off their next framing order, up to a total of 20% off. Additional cans brought in after the 20% maximum will apply toward a subsequent framing order.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.