Early Spring 2008
It's November as I write this, and the news here in Southern California is probably not the news elsewhere. After the devastating wildfires of last month devoured hundreds of homes and left devastating environmental destruction, fires are still burning in various places, and the hot, dry winds that feed them are forecasted to return in a few days. We want to believe that the worst is far behind us. And by the time you read this, it almost assuredly will be.
Yet, I think it is safe to say that whether we were one of the near-million evacuees, fire fighting or law-enforcement personnel, one of the thousands upon thousands of volunteers, or someone who was glued to the TV for the 24-hour non-stop, commercial-free wildfire coverage, something happened on a cellular level to change us. And I'd venture to say this change made us better people.
Why does it so often take a crisis or a tragedy to bring out our most generous, compassionate selves? Why do we spend so much time working, often putting family and loved ones on a back burner, only to realize after a close call that what really counts is family and loved ones? Why do we surround ourselves with so much stuff, only to find that when forced to evacuate and grab our most precious possessions, the things we take are those that have true meaning to our family, rather than all the other stuff we thought we couldn't live without? And why are so many of us inspired to give of ourselves and volunteer only when something heartbreaking happens, when there is heartbreak and dire need going on all around us all of the time?
I honestly don't know the answers, and of course, this isn't the first time these questions have been asked. I do feel, though, that all of us involved in those tragic fires now see a little more clearly what really matters, feel gratitude for all sorts of things, both big and small, and will find ourselves waking up to at least a few dreary mornings down the road just happy to be alive. When we can know what is truly precious, be thankful for what we've taken for granted, and appreciate the gift that each day is, we will surely be one step closer to Heaven on Earth.