Our Opinion: Innovation amid the plague
They say necessity is the mother of invention.
Well, few were prepared for the harsh reality of a mass-murdering, economy-crushing, society-warping pandemic in 2020. And as every
person in Washington County and beyond battles to adapt to this ever-changing world in which we're living, we want to give a well-deserved
tip of the cap to employers, community groups, service providers and others who are coming
up with some genuinely ingenious ways to beat the scourge and do right by the people who
count on them.
On page B3 of this week's paper, you'll read about innovation at a couple of Washington County's local libraries. True to form, our local librarians have been resourceful and creative in connecting with library patrons even though their buildings have been closed to the public for five months and counting, with no clear end in sight.
Read our Aug. 12, 2020, story on what the Tigard and Tualatin libraries are doing to stay active despite the shutdown.
Libraries, as we've written on this page many times before, aren't just big buildings with lots of books in them — or even just big buildings with lots of books and audiobooks and DVDs in them. They are community centers in every sense of the term: a repository of myriad services that benefit the community, and a gathering place at the heart of the community.
For instance, many local libraries offer "storytimes" and other low-key social programs, geared toward children of varying ages, development levels and language. These are wonderful opportunities for babies and toddlers to bond with parents and guardians, as well as socialize and grow comfortable with other people. While the social aspect isn't as present with families unable to meet up in the library, many libraries have shifted storytimes online, maintaining those opportunities for young children to see and hear from library staff and be entertained by stories via video conference.
Other events have also moved to a virtual format. You can read more on page B7.
Also in this week's B section, read about two popular community events that celebrate Beaverton's burgeoning diversity — not canceled, like so many other beloved summer traditions have been this year, but moved to a brand-new online format. Who knew you could hold an arts and crafts market or a parade online?
It may sound a little goofy, but that's not scaring off organizers who reason that if they might still be able to put on a great event by trying something new, that's better than just punting on 2020.
We're excited to see how these events move forward in virtual form.
And if the internet isn't your thing, some have turned to lower-tech ways to come together.
Celebrate Hillsboro last month was held under the ultimate form of social distancing: Residents were asked to celebrate their community by staying home. Some decorated with chalk art or supportive signs to showcase their community spirit — something we've also seen in places like King City, where the King City Community Foundation promoted a similar effort as early as April.
And that's not all.
You can read on page A11 about what two Washington County elementary schools are doing to expand the availability of their summer meals program and make sure families still feel connected to their schools even though they're not able to go back to campus for at least the start of the fall term.
And you can read on page B1 about a successful major golf tournament in Washington County this past weekend, which went on with social distancing protocols — and in spite of the absence of spectators.
On page A13, what one small city — among several others — is doing to expand ballot access and ensure that members of the community can participate in the democratic process and run for office even while the coronavirus complicates signature-gathering efforts.
And on page A1, of course, where we preview a popular annual publication that has been delayed and delayed again by the pandemic but is finally appearing in next week's paper to honor a few local students and recent graduates who truly stand out as "Amazing Kids."
This year is a difficult one, and it's one that will echo for some time to come.
But what is remarkable about the community's response to the coronavirus pandemic is that we don't think all of those echoes will necessarily be negative.
Many of the changes that have been made to adapt to the pandemic conditions actually serve to expand the reach of programs, services and events so that more people can access them. How many people who have never been to the Beaverton Celebration Parade might enjoy scrolling through examples of community spirit and strength in the suburbs next month from the comfort of their sofa? How many hassled parents have been unable to commit to an in-person storytime at the library but now can participate with their child in a virtual and distanced weekly program? How many hungry students have gone unfed because their families didn't have the means to take them to a summer lunch site, but are now eating nutritious meals every day because those breakfasts and lunches are coming to them?
We're eagerly anticipating the day when we can meet up again, watch costumed paddlers race pumpkins around the Lake of the Commons in Tualatin, wash down some garlicky festival food with local wine in North Plains, and sing and laugh and dance together. And it's frustrating and disappointing that we can't do that, and that we don't know yet when we'll be able.
But it's not all bad. More people working from home means fewer cars on the road. Virtual library events and expanded meal programs mean more families can be served. We're finding community spirit not in our town centers and public plazas but in our homes and in our hearts.
This innovation is good for people — working people, everyday people, people whose needs have often gone unmet. And at a time when people all over are hurting and in want of support, it's that innovation we value. It's that innovation we need.
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