Despite what the TV commercials this time of year may tell you, the holiday season is not all about buying presents and getting new stuff (although they are great). The holiday season is (or, at least it should be) about people coming together.
And I recently experienced this coming together during the windstorm on Dec. 14.
That evening, after I had left work, I stopped by the store for about 10 minutes. After the store, I headed home to my apartment on Finn Hill in Kirkland. As I was driving, there was quite a bit of debris on the road and couldn’t help noticing how much the trees were swaying. Seeing all of this, the thought that came to my mind was, “I wonder if the power has gone out at home.”
Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve become pretty accustomed to windstorms this time of year. They’re pretty common. It’s also not uncommon to lose power during said storms. So whatever was going to greet me when I got home, I figured I wouldn’t be surprised.
Boy, was I wrong.
As I pulled into the parking lot to my complex, I noticed quite a bit of people walking around, which was surprising because people typically just go straight from their cars into their units. As I slowly drove further into the lot, my roommate came toward my car. She told me to park closer to the parking lot entrance rather than in one of the usual spots closer to our unit. And behind her, I saw why.
A tree had fallen in our parking lot.
This was not just a large branch that had broken off and flown into the lot. This was literally an entire tree. It was like it had given up on standing up straight and decided to just lie down on the ground — and upon closer inspection, we realized the top of another tree had also decided to join it on the ground. But that ground just happened to be our parking lot. Filled with all of our vehicles.
Fortunately, nobody was hurt, though one of our neighbors’ car had some pretty significant damage and a few others suffered some scratches. But it could have been a close one as I learned that the tree fell about 10 minutes before I got home. So if I hadn’t stopped by the store, I could have easily been in the parking lot during that “Timber!” moment. But I wasn’t and even more fortunate was the fact that two of our neighbors were not home at the time and a large part of where the tree landed was directly in their reserved parking spots. But as fortunate as the situation was, all things considered, there was a lot of work to do as the tree was blocking a number of cars.
So we got to work.
People began calling around and putting out the asks on social media, seeing if anyone had a chainsaw or anything that could help with tree removal. Soon, we had a small ax and a small handsaw. People began hacking and sawing away at the branches of the tree while others used their phones’ flashlights to help people see what they were doing. And some of us worked to move the branches to the far side of the parking lot.
It truly was a team effort.
And during all this work, we began talking to each other. Up to this point, I had been living in this complex for about eight months and only knew four of my neighbors by name. But as we worked, I began introducing myself to my neighbors. Turns out there are at least two more Samanthas in our complex — one who lives one building entrance away from me and one who, funnily enough, lives right next door (shout out to Sam’s Club!).
If that tree hadn’t fallen, who knows how long it would have taken for me to learn more of my neighbors’ names?
But that downed tree brought us together, at least for that short amount of time, and we had a chance to meet each other for longer than it takes us to walk from our cars to our units.
As we worked, people cracked jokes about how we’d all been bad this year and the tree just showed which of Santa’s lists we were on this season. And it got me thinking about the holiday season.
No matter what you celebrate, or don’t celebrate, during this time of year, winter is a common time for people to come together. Students are typically home on winter break and most people are able to take at least a day or two off from work.
But the holiday season is coming to a close. Soon, students will be back in school and most people will return to whatever the 9-to-5 equivalents at their jobs are.
So, with this in mind, I want to challenge you (and myself, despite my introverted tendencies) to not wait for the holidays or a small disaster to reach out to those around you. This may be a time to come together, but it shouldn’t be the only time.
Windows and Mirrors is a bimonthly column focused on telling the stories of people whose voices are not often heard. If you have something you want to say, contact editor Samantha Pak at firstname.lastname@example.org.