Last week there was a major fire in our community. In a matter of a few short hours, well over 100 homes burned to the ground, and hundreds of people found themselves traumatized and homeless. In what can only be described as a miracle, the fire was stopped in its tracks and did not jump the street into the next neighborhood where my parents and relatives live. It should have jumped the street… the wind was wildly blowing in that direction. Even the siding of the first building in the neighborhood melted from the heat, and yet the entire neighborhood was spared. I’m still trying to figure out how. I’ve seen pictures and video footage of the fire raging out of control, and the wind driving a path of fire through each building as it headed to the next neighborhood. The firefighters must have mounted an incredible defense to contain it and stop the path of the flames.
That evening, the next day, and into this week, I have seen our community LEAP to help these families who have lost EVERYTHING. The response has been overwhelming and incredible. Businesses are holding fundraisers. People are donating their own personal belongings and pulling out their checkbooks to give generously. Companies are opening their offices to house and organize donations. And these suddenly homeless people are being held in the arms of an entire community as they grieve deeply. Why such an amazing response? Because this hit close to home. This could have been any one of us. And we are all rattled by the in-your-face visual of reckless, destructive, uncaring flames burning our worlds to the ground. We grieve alongside the families and do everything we can to help them recover and rebuild.
I have been so encouraged to see this outpouring. Every one of these families will need long term support as they rebuild and heal from the emotional wounds and extreme loss. They need so much love and support from us in the months and even years to come. And I am so happy to see this happening. And so I hope what I have to say next will not diminish, downplay, or discourage the need to help the victims of this tragedy.
I can’t lie… watching those flames really evokes my own heartache for all the victims around the community and the world whose entire lives are razed to the ground by equally destructive yet invisible flames. Every minute a child in this world finds his or her entire world torched and burning to the ground when his parents abandon him and walk away. He finds himself homeless and stripped of everything in a single moment as calamity strikes, and the invisible flames of abandonment rip through his world and level it. It’s just as real, but we don’t see the flames; so we can conveniently turn and look the other way. A woman becomes a widow, and the invisible flames of grief and sudden poverty torch her world. The funeral is over, she is slowly forgotten by her community, and the invisible flames of loneliness leave her hopelessly staring at the rubble of a life that once was. A family goes up in unseen flames as the spouses are torn apart by an enemy who wants to dance over the ashes, and instead of rallying around them as “marriage firefighters,” we stand back for fear of getting singed by the flames. And on and on it goes… invisible flames everywhere and lives suffering extreme loss all around us. You don’t have to look across the world to find it. The unseen fires are torching lives even in our own back yards.
Why was my father’s neighborhood spared? Because there were firefighters willing to risk their lives and draw a line in the sand to say, “Here and no further.” They were willing to throw themselves in the path of the fire and fight for the homes and lives of many more hundreds of families. So I ask myself, “Where are the firefighters of invisible flames?” Those who will throw themselves in the path of very real destruction and say “Here and no further.” Where are the first responders who will run to the broken, abandoned, and traumatized and wrap arms of comfort around them? Where are the protectors of life who will fight an unseen enemy? Where are the people who will climb down into the muddy pit of grief and help a victim out and back onto solid ground? Where is the amazing mobilization of the community to see the needs of thousands of abandoned children, suffering widows, and poverty stricken families in our very own state and LEAP to help them? Where is the community who will throw open the doors of their homes and welcome in the ash and soot covered strangers who have just lost their whole world to an invisible fire that ripped through everything they held dear? Don’t we realize that this could be any one of us? We don’t have an in-your-face visual, but the destruction and devastation is REAL. The only difference is that we can’t drive down the street and see an empty blackened field where hundreds of homes of refuge, peace, and safety used to be.
I consider myself a very blessed woman to have so many friends I consider “firefighters.” Friends who foster, adopt, mentor, tirelessly advocate, care for the widows they know, work hard to earn counseling degrees, never give up on their friends’ marriages and continue speaking words of life and hope even when it appears hopeless, friends who unfailing share their financial resources to impact lives, and friends who will give up their own comfort to open their homes to anyone in need. I look up to them and desire to be just like them. Will you join us?
Find what God created you for, what makes you come alive, and use your skills to join the fight. Find a child to mentor, and help them find answers to the tough questions that life has thrown at them. Encourage and support a couple who is struggling. Become a foster parent or a safe haven for a child. Volunteer at a pregnancy center… young mothers need the love and support of a kind person who is willing to take the time to come alongside them. Get to know your neighbors. They are most likely faced with issues inside the 4 walls of their home that you would never imagine just looking at their beautiful landscaping from across the street every day. Speak words of life and encouragement to a teenager… their lives are ridiculously more complicated and difficult than when we were teens. Perhaps you are not a first responder who can take on the challenge of adopting an emotionally wounded child… but you CAN support and care for the parents who no doubt are weary and overwhelmed and need a safe listening ear, a meal, an errand run, or a night out. You can reach out to a single mom or a widow who can’t make ends meet and care for them. You can share your own belongings and financial resources with the people in your community and your world who have nothing. Volunteer, mentor, foster, adopt, care for, encourage, give, advocate… The possibilities are endless.
Where are the firefighters of unseen flames? Where are the protectors? Where are the healers? Where is the mobilization of love? Open your eyes and see the smoldering blackened fields around you…