Earth Day: Reflections On The Value Of Community

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By: Allison Charalambous, Sr. Manager of Sustainability & Social Responsibility
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Two wildfires ago, during Woosley north of LA, most neighbors on my street got on a group text in case we had to evacuate in the middle of the night, like neighboring cities Calabasas and Topanga. I grew up in this neighborhood and uttering the word “hello” as you passed on empty oak-lined roads was unprecedented, let alone sharing phone numbers and using them to converse. Fast forward to 2020, we’ve since lived through a second wildfire, had a block party, commiserated over two home break-ins, and collaborated in neighborhood watch meetings. But since we’ve become homebound by COVID-19, the text jokes have waxed and waned as the weeks go by and our moods have started to deepen.
That was until yesterday when my now 4-year-old son woke up on his birthday to his windows decorated in streamers and balloons, birthday art, and party hats with photos of neighbors wishing they could celebrate with him. Another neighbor baked a construction truck themed cake that fed 9 families once divided up. Others posted signs on their mailboxes and cars for my son to find on our morning walk. Many brought gifts and even homemade cookies. All of it to make a small guy happy during his quarantined birthday.
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For Earth Day, I’m reflecting on how a byproduct of the climate crisis, wildfires, brought this street together. And how I am so appreciative to have this community during the COVID-19 crisis. Each family is going through its own economic and social struggles under Safer at Home. We are made up of retirees, small business owners, front line workers, and working parents now educating young kids at home. Some of us have stable tech jobs, while others are waiting for a small business loan or a furlough call from their manager.
“Working together is what humans are actually built to do,” said environmental activist Bill McKibben. And only by working together will we get through. We must remain considerate and compassionate to those around us. By offering to help high-risk neighbors and friends. By thanking our delivery people, mail carriers, and sanitation workers. By supporting our front-line health care workers. By wearing masks and keeping a distance to slow the spread. By calling friends who live alone. By supporting non-profits, artists, musicians, museums, and businesses that we want to endure into the future.
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We work together. We are together.
The socially distanced birthday party has since revitalized the neighborhood’s mood. As I type this, they are texting photos from their balconies of firefighters raising an aerial ladder into a 2-story eucalyptus tree to save a cat…yes a cat in a tree. Tonight, I’ll take my neighbors over Netflix. 
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