I was going through photos this week and I ran across some photos and things I had saved from back during the 2007 flood. I was living in Adna at the time and I remember standing there, that afternoon in 2007, when the entirety of my hometown was inundated with brown, swift waters.
I watched among the crowd of people as homeowners watched their lives wash away.
Up until that point in my life, I hadn’t been surrounded by such abject sadness and destruction in such an acute way. At 19 years old, I wasn’t sure recovery was even possible. I hadn’t ever seen that level of a natural disaster up close and personally.
But then something amazing happened.
People — from all over the county and state — showed up to lend a hand. Churches and civic groups organized their members. Citizens and neighbors stood side-by-side, shoveling that awful silt and muck left behind and hauling destroyed goods away by the truckloads.
I went from seeing what I thought was one of the darkest days of my life to feeling the very palpable sense of hope and can-do attitude of our community. And, I wasn’t the only one that noticed — regional and national news crews drove from all over to showcase not just the devastation, but that same sense of community and partnership.
It was like everyone just knew: We have to have hope. We have to believe in better days ahead. We have to figure out how to help each other. We all had our “lane” — our place — to help.
Flash forward to today, in the early days of the pandemic shut down in March and the month or two that followed, I felt like I saw some of that collaborative spirit from people: The people who jumped in and started making masks. The friends and neighbors who stepped in to provide childcare for essential workers. Those who volunteered to make grocery and errand runs for those who could not.
But now, six months into this pandemic experience, I feel like some of that can-do spirit and sense of resiliency has waned in my newsfeed. As I walk about town, people feel on edge and angry. There have even been times where I have expressed a happy thought recently, only to have a person react with anger and frustration.
I suppose back during the flood, when you cleaned the muck out of a whole room that had been flooded, or finally got all the impacted sheetrock torn down, it felt like real progress. Real movement towards a better day.
I’m not sure anything during the pandemic has quite given us that same sense of moving forward. I think we all still feel kind of stuck.
Even some parents, frustrated with distance learning and coping with it all, seem to find it extra hard to even muster any positivity at all for their kids. That’s gotta be tough.
So, I suppose in today’s column I wanted to take a minute to remind everyone to make an effort to be extra kind. I, like you, am sitting here, trying to work and write and meet deadlines, while children poke me and play underfoot and generally disregard their school work. And, at times, it does feel very much like an endless loop.
But hope — having hope and holding on to it — is really important to the human spirit and our community, too. I would encourage us all to try to find gratitude a little earlier than usual this year and look for ways to extend simple kindness to others around us.
I know we have it in us, Lewis County. I’ve seen it.
Brittany Voie is a columnist for The Chronicle. She lives south of Chehalis with her husband and two young sons. She welcomes correspondence from the community at email@example.com.