Linden neighbors pledge allegiance to community

Families gather -- at a distance -- weekdays at 8:30 a.m. to recite the pledge

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

To imbue a sense of normalcy and community during the COVID-19 crisis, families on the 800 block of Linden Avenue have begun reciting the Pledge of Allegiance from the sidewalk, while keeping a safe distance apart, every weekday morning at 8:30 a.m. to mark the beginning of the school day.

"It all started as a result of one of those block email threads," said Justin Lewis, who lives on the block with his wife and their two teenage children. The entire block has 26 households total. Kids on the block range in age from babies to teenagers.

"One of our neighbors in the middle of the block said, 'Hey, I've been taking my kids out in the morning at 8:30 just to say the Pledge of Allegiance. And, you know, we said, 'What a great idea,'" Lewis said.

Not long after, the whole block got involved. One family put up their American flag for everyone to look at while reciting.

"My wife happens to have the dinner bell from her childhood, and we also have a bullhorn, so we rang the bell up and down the block this morning to bring everyone out, then used the bullhorn to lead everyone in the pledge," Lewis said.

Dorothy Houlihan, who lives on the next block, was driving past on her way home from picking up groceries when she saw her neighbors all lined up. Houlihan works at the River Forest Public Library, which has since closed due to COVID-19.

"I saw that there were families with children, younger children, standing out front of their houses," said Houlihan. "I'm thinking myself, 'Oh, they are not all gathering together, are they? For goodness' sake!' But no, it was each family separate.'"

When she learned what they were doing, she hopped out of her car, stood at a distance and joined in reciting the pledge.  

"It was such a dreary gray morning and it brought tears to my eyes because this is such a lovely way to maintain some normalcy and schedule and a sense of community without putting anyone at risk," Houlihan said. "It was so touching."

While the pledge is very short, its sentiment carries newfound weight in the time of COVID-19 and the ever-mounting alarm surrounding it.

The neighborhood started the ritual March 19 and intends to keep it up until schools reopen.

"I suspect the adults appreciated this more than the kids or maybe it's because we have teens who would prefer to sleep a bit late," Lewis said. "Regardless, we are hoping to continue this as a way to support each other and gather, from an appropriate social distance, and to kick off the remote/distance/e-learning school day."

Houlihan plans to continue reciting the pledge with her neighbors each morning even though she doesn't live on that block and her children have all grown up. 

"I'm planning on being out there at 8:30 tomorrow morning. It's a reason to get up," she said.  "It's a reason for me to get out of bed in the morning and put on my clothes and get out there. We all need a reason, you know?"

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, families and individuals have holed up in isolation for fear of catching or spreading coronavirus.

"They're kind of scary times and they make you afraid to be around people," Lewis's wife Megan said. "It's hard to think about being in community when you can't physically be in community. And so, you have to be creative."

The 800 block of Linden Avenue has creatively maintained its sense of community. Separated only by a boundary of physical space, the neighborhood is, as the pledge says, indivisible.

"It's a cliché in Oak Park that every block thinks that they live on the best block in town," Lewis said. "But we agree. We think that we do live on the best block in town."

 

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Reader Comments

5 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Jim Frenkel  

Posted: March 30th, 2020 9:16 AM

Thank you, Janet!

Joseph Smith from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2020 9:49 AM

One of beauties of the American Constitution is the simple, complexity of the First Amendment that allows for freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Mr. Kelly has done a wonderful job of inappropriately uniting both. I remind of a famous non-Christian worshiper Mahatma Gandhi: "Speak only if it improves upon the silence."

River Forestpl  

Posted: March 21st, 2020 4:11 PM

Just a reminder to everyone in River Forest that although our building may be closed, our digital library and all of our digital resources are available. Take a look at all of our offerings: riverforestlibrary.org/digital

Janet Haisman from Oak Park  

Posted: March 20th, 2020 11:41 PM

Do you live on the 800 block of Linden, Jim? If so, you can always pledge with them using your words. If not, why not start a new version on your block - or on your condo balcony, or whatever! Build some community! :)

Jim Kelly  

Posted: March 20th, 2020 6:37 PM

I would be happier if they chose a choral reading with no reference to the Christian god. Or, use the orginal version: ""I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." OR the 1923 amended version: ""I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

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