Notes from Colleen’s Desk: Lean on Me

October 28, 2021


I can’t help but notice unusual trees, big and small. Those which are beautiful and those that look distressed. Those which are clearly scarred yet thriving.  I take endless photos of them and imagine how one day in my home I might have a room dedicated to photographs of trees with captions of how they impacted me in this journey we all call life.

There is lesson for me in each tree that graces my path, gives me insight into my own humanity, or becomes an uncanny connection to what is happening behind the scenes here at SOREDI.  The remarkable tree pictured, gave me a fabulously framed picture of the path up Mt. Eddy this past summer, and reminded me of how paths can be rocky and slow going, but surely have great rewards. At times, no matter how rewarding that tree-lined trail may appear to be or how great the vistas ahead, it is often necessary to change course and take a different path.

Case in point: we have been head-down at SOREDI working on a collaborative project related to our beautiful Greenway (though still rocky, incomplete, and unrefined in sections) which currently meanders through seven Southern Oregon cities. We have spoken to multiple jurisdictions and partners about the potential of a collaborative project to significantly impact our region. Yet, just this week we realized that even as grand an idea we had in mind, and how passionate we were to champion the effort, the time is not right yet for the prospective grant application we had hoped to submit. We realized that we had the cart before the horse. In trail lingo, we had our trekking poles in hand before we had put our boots on.  We must take a different trail, at least for now.

I transition now to visually share how direct lightning strikes, tumors, and burn scars in our lives, can also lead to our long-term resiliency, and strengthen our resolve to keep going.  Many citizens and businesses are living this now, following the devastating wildfires of 2020.  You may see an ugly wounded tree or other obstacle in your path. Yet by taking a fresh look from every angle, a 360-degree view, you may find remarkable support and inspiration standing in your shadow or right behind, ready to support you.

Case in point: SOREDI is incredibly blessed to have an entire staff that is actively engaged. They are highly supportive of every initiative SOREDI takes on: from local business outreach to recruitment response to loan program management, to grant administration, and to those dreaded – but critically important – reports we must make on a regular basis.

I might be guilty of overthinking reports and procrastinate, rather than ask for help. But in my belaboring moments of pulling all the data together in my old-school ways, I find a willing and capable staff standing in my shadow doing their much more tech-savvy part to fill in the gaps. In the end, SOREDI is all the stronger as we manage through whatever lies before us, despite the obstacle, which could be me!

By the time you are reading this blog, yes, all those EDA federal reports that are due by October 30 will be successfully uploaded, while we are internally reminded at SOREDI that we are collectively doing great work for Southern Oregon! Thank you, Amy, Kim, Terrill, Abigail and Caitlin, for holding me up and helping SOREDI grow mightily stronger and more effective every day.

Of course, I am most compelled to also share one more inspirational photo of the tree which instigated this “Lean on Me” writing. Technically, it is two trees. After all, you can’t really lean on another if there is only one of you! This photo reminds me of how there is great wisdom in leaning into your heritage and supporting those who may follow in your footsteps.

I see the younger tree, which almost looks like it is resting on the laurels of the older tree. Perhaps it gleaned wisdom from the other – much like we might glean insight from our forefathers or aging parents. Or possibly, we wish we had stayed more connected to the generation of wisdom that went before us in our various professional fields and personal lives.

Or maybe instead you see how the older tree might have been nurturing the younger tree all along. Perhaps, the older was strengthening the younger to navigate a harsh climate, chaotic world, and uncertain future.

Case in point: A huge shoutout to every SOREDI partner, board member, and business who consistently shows up to help SOREDI navigate change, share inspiration, and offer best next steps to accomplish objectives that strengthen the whole of Southern Oregon. Or change course.  We cannot exist nor prosper as your regional economic development agency apart from you.

On a more personal note: Thank you to every member of my faithful community group that meets up every Tuesday night to enjoy a meal, offer encouragement, share their authentic lives and experiences – including the really, hard stuff – and then pray diligently for one another. You are my personal grove of Ponderosa Pines.

Since this writing is only words on a screen, you won’t necessarily see or ever know how emotional I can become by trees; even more so the personal application these tree tales tell. Try saying that three times fast! Truly, I aspire to be planted like the tree, as described by the Psalmist below (Psalm 1:3), in personal life and at the helm of SOREDI.

“He will be like a tree planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.”

Thanks to all for giving SOREDI and me your shoulder to lean on. Here’s to leaning into life and one another! As always, we look forward to serving Southern Oregon alongside you.


Colleen Padilla, Executive Director

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