By Gretchen Wehmhoff

In this time of gathering the family around the table, we have so much to be thankful for. 

With the tragic landslide in Wrangell and memories of the deadly landslide in Haines just a few years ago, it’s hard not to think of how important the concept of  community is when catastrophe lands in our laps.

While the weather spared the Skagway area this season, it wasn’t long ago that an unforgiving atmospheric river dumped rain on the hills, flowing down to the our local rivers and a breakaway piece of terrain caused West Creek to cover resident’s roads and driveway, seeping into basements. And when it happened, we turned to family.

Communities are families filled with siblings. We squabble. We point out faults. We can even be cruel to each other. But we also seek each other for company. We count on our siblings to provide food for us when our cupboards are empty and our luck has been tough. We look to each other for advice when we need a dentist or plumber. We laugh together on Friday nights and pray together on Sunday mornings. 

We cry together at the death of a favorite pet and gather to remember and share stories about our siblings who have passed on. 

We don’t always like our family, and sometimes we say and do things that we probably should just keep to ourselves. We are good (or bad) at gossip, but what family isn’t?  Truth is, we care about our family – even if we don’t always say it aloud.

What makes us a strong family is our ability to overcome our disagreements when our siblings are in need, even more so when the entire town is in need. We have the strength to still care about someone who we believe has been unkind or reckless in their choices.

We have homes, but not everyone can afford to live here. We have food, but not everyone can afford to eat without help. We have a medical clinic, but we all know the emotional tug when we hear the sound of a helicopter taking off in the middle of the night because one of us may need more help than we can give.

We have the older siblings, younger siblings and the majority of us in the middle.

A community is a family, a large family, and we need each other – always.

I am grateful for this Skagway family. It is compassionate, entrepreneurial, hard-working, involved and forgiving. Even when things get dark in this small town and  its windy valley, there is always a sibling who turns on a light, opens a door and invites you in out of the cold. 

Be safe, find grace and give an extra hug as you walk out the door after dinner. It’s the season.