My mom and I walked around the Homer Farmer's Market on a rare summer Saturday after I made the crossing into town. First stop was halibut tacos where I saw my high school algebra teacher. The lady that makes salsa coaxed me to try a hotter version than I usually get. She was right — it was delicious! I felt better after I saw the local Methodist minister who had been so kind to me when I had the difficult task of giving the eulogy for my oldest friend. My farmer friends, Daniel and Luba, loaded up a bag of postcard-worthy beautiful veggies and herbs for me to take back across the bay. Then the decadence of local peonies caught my eye. Pure, puffy pageant winners. My favorite.
Mom was hugging someone.
"Shan, I want you to meet my 'walking blood bank,' Marguerite," she said.
What? Your mom doesn't have a "walking blood bank" friend? I get it. I didn't know that mine had one either.
The history notes from the Blood Bank of Alaska tell us, "Blood was drawn on location from walk-in donors just prior to surgery or at the time of an accident. The blood drawn from these donors, referred to as 'Walking Blood Banks,' was transfused directly to the recipient with no processing and minimal testing."
My mother and Marguerite had matching blood types and were ready to donate to each other as needed. Lots of people had similar arrangements. While my mom was in labor with my sister, Marguerite waited at the hospital in the event she would need to give blood.
Here's the thing. For all the decades Marguerite and my mom lived in the same community, I hadn't met her. They weren't social — they were essential.
So we're clear, I'm not advocating to close the blood bank and go back to relying on neighbors in cases of emergency. But I started thinking of Marguerite and mom this week after listening to local town folks being interviewed about the tsunami evacuation. First, a man in his nineties who had made his way to the Homer High School in the middle of the night. He was worried and alone. Another woman, advanced in her years, was concerned because she had forgotten her medication at her home and needed another dose in three hours.
Local police in our small coastal towns did a great job waking up the lowlanders of their communities and getting them to safety. We dodged a bullet this week. There's no other way to look at it. It could have been so much worse. Earthquakes and tsunamis are our reality: not if, but when.
It's a terrifying feeling to walk away from your home wondering if a wave is going to take all you know away. I had to do that this week. I sat with my 73-year- old neighbor and we tried to figure out how high the wave would have to be to get us. That's not a fun game. Being alone would be worse.
Maybe it's time for mayors and city councils to matchmake between the highlanders and lowlanders who are more vulnerable during an evacuation. I know, it sounds like some sort of Scottish games festival where there's that one guy in blue face paint and a ratty kilt taking it all way too seriously, but the elderly and slower-moving among us could use the help up to higher ground or just a phone call to check on them. We are our neighbor's keeper and there's no better time than when things are scary.
I know. This is a call to kindness and community. There's a civility in offering help to someone based on absolutely no criteria other than they have a need. There's a graciousness in accepting it. There's something really beautiful in being able to rely on your community when it matters. And in the face of impending disaster, community matters.
Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.
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