A Winters Express opinion column
By Sarah Shirley
Special to the Express
I witnessed a miracle yesterday.
Through coordinated community effort, the citizens of Winters came together before my eyes to accomplish a near impossible goal and help a neighbor in need.
As with any good miracle, the story starts with a tragedy.
The scene starts with me, eastbound on 128, headed way way down to San Francisco. My mind is distracted with decisions. Do I purchase my gas here in town at Berryessa Sporting Goods, or do I drive out of town to save a few cents on the gallon? Do I stay in Winters, or do I go? I couldn’t decide, and my mind was toiling overtime while I drove on near autopilot down our familiar street.
A huge blue generator tumbled out of the bed of a pickup truck making a left hand turn onto the road in front of me. It was spectacular and terrifying, just like any good tragedy. The generator fell onto the road as if it were a boulder escaping a mountainside, tumbling end over end, smashing the pallet supporting it into an avalanche of splinters scattered across the street.
Suddenly present in the moment, my heart made the decision my mind would not. I instantly pulled into the turning lane to block traffic from running into the accident, intent on helping any way I could. Then, I remembered that I was wearing heels and a satin crop top; there was no way I could lift that generator wearing that getup. Knowing my limits, I chose to support my community by getting out of the way so those capable of physically helping could do their work. I pulled into Berryessa Sporting Goods and began pumping my gas, choosing to invest my energy in the community through the spending power of supporting a local small business.
In the three minutes it took me to pump half a tank of gas, I witnessed a miracle unfold before my eyes.
People showed up to help support each other and accomplish a common goal.
Different men, from all walks of life, paused their personal journeys, and walked up to help. Most were familiar faces from our community, but there were also a few strangers who saw the trouble and stopped to help. All were intent on helping in any way they could. All knowingly walked into the middle of a busy highway to help shoulder the burden of a neighbor in trouble.
With a few words they agreed on a simple plan. Each man grabbed what he could, and began to lift this gargantuan obstacle out of their shared path. It isn’t easy to deadlift a 750 pound welder generator from the street three feet into the air; most would call it impossible. It surely would have been impossible for one man working alone.
But, the support of a caring community of helping hands led to defying gravity. Seven men worked in tandem and lifted an impossible burden through the miracle of community. The work didn’t end once they accomplished the goal of simply getting the generator back in the bed it fell from, either. They chose to get the generator back on its feet, which required a huge final push to lift it upright.
It was obvious to all around that if that generator fell again someone could get seriously hurt, and that steeled their resolve to get it accomplished in one go. That’s when I started praying, as I knew they couldn’t do the heavy lifting without someone helping their hearts.
I bet there were lots of prayers being sent up within that moment. It takes many hearts working together to manifest a miracle, and in that moment our community worked and prayed together until we made a miracle happen with pure will and our bare hands. The generator was back where it started.
Then cleanup began, and it unfolded before my eyes like the finale of a musical. A few people helped secure the generator to the truck, while others exited back to their ordinary lives. The employees of Berryessa Sporting Goods stepped out, brooms and dustpan in hand, and swept the street clear of splinters. The truck and generator drove off, and traffic began to flow once more in a steady stream of travelers.
The gas pump clicked off, and the scene was over.
The true miracle here though is that this sort of support isn’t a miracle here in our close knit little town at all; it’s just another sunny Sunday in Winters, California.
We regularly come together to keep our community clear and supported through tragedy, and we do it so consistently that it is simply part of the culture of our small town. Our culture is so well defined that I knew I could safely pull away and that others more suited to the work would be there within minutes to help clear the blockage.
In Winters, we believe in helping our neighbors. We believe that many hands make light work, and we believe we all play a part in keeping our community safe, sheltered, and supported, come what may. We came together when we built the playground while the world burned around us. We came together to save downtown (twice now), through coordinated business effort and supportive community patronage.
We do the same every Thanksgiving with our community meal, so no one goes hungry. We come together when there’s a death. We come together when there’s a birth. We come together to show we care, and that no one here is alone. We are at our best when we work together. That spirit of community care and responsibility is the true spirit of Winters, and is what makes our small town shine like a diamond.
To be sure, countless others must have passed by without helping or giving the situation a second thought. Maybe the men I viewed as heroes just wanted to selfishly clear the roadway so their boat trailers could pass by unobstructed. But, from where I stood at pump number three, it was clear to me that our culture of community support inspires neighbors to help each other accomplish what would otherwise be impossible alone.
When we put aside our differences for a day or a lifetime, and let our heads, hearts, and hands work in tandem, there is no goal we can not meet.
We’re truly unlimited in what we can accomplish, together.
Together, we can even defy gravity.