MI Town : Patty Taylor Dutcher

At this time of year, when stormy days and nights are more frequent than not, it is somehow reassuring to me to see the bright lights from the beautiful tree on the Western Oregon University campus as I'm driving along Highway 99.

No matter how busy the day or what tasks await us in the evenings, M-I Town's Christmas tree is beckoning through the rain and the fog to say "Welcome Home" from our travels.

Home for us the past six years has been a sweet old house within walking distance of the college campus, where we love to take frequent walks with our dogs. It's in a community where a special combination of college students and working people, newcomers and long-time residents, retirees and young children can share the experiences of life in a small town without the stress and frustration of too much traffic and too many people and too much crime activity in the big city.

In MI Town, we share more than a couple of zip codes with our neighbors. We get to know one another on walks around town, at the libraries, in the grocery stores, at our jobs and in local restaurants. We are all affected by what happens to people who live down the street or around the corner.

We grieve one another's losses and try to try to help relieve their suffering. We share our joy and happiness and congratulate each other when good things happen, because we care about each other. We share a sense of community.

In the midst of all the Christmas hustle and bustle, some of our neighbors and friends are reeling from bad economic news of job losses and closures of company facilities. There's never a good time to be facing unemployment, and Christmas is the worst time of all.

A few strokes of a pen in executive offices far away can cause so much pain and hardship for workers and their families and those who love them. We all need to take the time to listen and to help and to see what we can do to see our neighbors through these difficult times.

Many of us have friends and family members in Iraq and Afghanistan and in several other countries far from home. No matter what our feelings may be about the war, we love them and miss them and when we light a candle, our thoughts and prayers are with these brave young men and women who proudly serve our country, and will be celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah half a world away.

We'll be celebrating Christmas with children and grandchildren and other family members who will be visiting M-I Town. We'll drive over the river and through the woods to visit family, and we'll share love and laughter with teenagers and eldsters and little children who will want to try on their Christmas pajamas as soon as the packages are opened.

We'll gently tolerate the dogs nibbling from unattended plates, and eat one too many pieces of fudge on Christmas morning. Merry Christmas and best wishes from our home to yours.


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