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Aeric Estep: 'Our best hope for success and flourishing is to walk through the difficulty as we were intended...'

The temperature dropped, the ice formed, and the trees gave way. They were casting their limbs and branches, taking out power lines, and crashing throughout the neighborhood.

Once there was a lull in the weather, I found myself outside, alone, working at the removal of the branches from my own street power connection.

"I have a saw. Would you like to use it?" my neighbor, walking up, asked while I ineffectually wrestled with the oak limbs.

I accepted his offer and, on our way to his house, we were jolted to attention as a 100-year-old tree fell across the street two houses down.

Hearing the loud noise, neighbors gathered in the street. While we inspected the damage with the owner, another equally old tree fell on his house, wrapping around its frame in a hideous embrace. The gathered smattering of neighbors did not know what to say beyond, "I'm so sorry."

There was carnage everywhere: limbs and branches, power and cable lines. Pelting ice cubes from the thawing trees seemed to be aimed for our heads. Our neighborhood was beaten and bruised, and a squad of neighbors, socially distanced for so long, now had a common cause.

"I have a chain saw."

"I have an axe."

"Let's clear this street out!"

We went to work — shoulder to shoulder, cutting away trees and limbs and debris, to make our neighborhood accessible to what we hoped would be a quick arrival of the power company.

Our task was completed quickly, but our drive to help, to be neighbors, had just begun. We went from house to house, clearing front entries and driveways, making way for cars and access. Our hands were cold, but our camaraderie was warm. It was good to remember what it means to be a neighbor. It was good to recall: we need each other.

The past 12 months have thrown a lot at us. In the midst of a pandemic, what has been deemed most safe, social distance, has also strained the key aspect of being human: being part of a community. We must not forget it again.

In the midst of the ice and the snow, the cold and the carnage, a small group of neighbors remembered the good of being together. We will get through this storm, this pandemic, this year. And one day, it will be a distant memory. But our best hope for success and flourishing is to walk through the difficulty as we were intended: together.

Aeric Estep is a West Linn resident.


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