Roseburg is a small town in southern Oregon. My heart unexpectedly found this town through my service with AmeriCorps. While driving down I5 and into town, you can see picturesque building-less land in all directions. You see a vibrant blue sky, green hills, mountains, and trees, plenty of tall evergreen trees. A vision of never-ending greens and blues. A vision of pure beauty.
The town sits on the Umpqua River where the water is a colorful mosaic of every shade of blue. The area is peaceful and the land is serene. It is a place that was essentially my home for two years. It is the place where I grew up into the person I am today. It was in Roseburg where I learned about the human need for silence and alone time and the need to escape into a land of stillness. It was where I learned to truly appreciate the beauty in nature and in the world around me. It was while I lived in Roseburg that I fell in love with the small town feel. The small town community.
Last week I was in complete shock when I turned on the TV to see Roseburg on all of the national news channels. A mass shooting in Roseburg? That just cannot be. My second home was plastered on the screen. Literally my front yard, Umpqua Community College’s campus, and the house that I lived in, were on the screen right before my eyes. The community that I had called home, a small town not known by many, on TV revealed to the world because of the horrific tragedy that had occurred.
I watched the events of this tragedy unfold from my screen 3,000 miles away. My heart ached for Roseburg. It was broken for those who had lost their life, for the families of those who had lost loved ones, for those who had been injured, and for the community at large. I wished that I could have been there to help out, to comfort those in need, and to show my support at community events. I wanted to be a part of the healing process of this community that I hold so near and dear to my heart.
Roseburg and other small towns in the region are separated by miles of open land and peacefulness. When I went into town, I would certainly see at least one person that I knew. If I were to say that I was going to go to the grocery store in Roseburg it would be assumed that I would be going to one of three buildings with Sherms Thunderbird being at the top of the list. I would frequent the same check-out line in order to see my favorite cashier. If I wanted to go to a concert in the park during the warm dry summer you would know that I was going to go to Stewart Park, no questions asked. This is the simple life of the small town.
Something about the vast, rolling, beautiful landscape made every day life in Roseburg peaceful, slow paced, and meaningful. It made it easy to appreciate life and the life that was around me.
Sometimes things can seem so distant, so far away until it happens in your own town. We have become so use to these acts of violence that at times, they no longer affect us if we are not immediately impacted by them. You never know when a tragedy like what happened in Roseburg will happen in your area. You never know when your peaceful world will be rocked.
When a heartfelt connection is built through connecting with your community, purpose and belonging will be found. Become an active member of your town. Appreciate your community and do not ever take it for granted.