As I sit here and write, just 3.5 miles away hundreds of people have lost their homes to ravaging wildfires. It’s not just a house or building that was lost, but all the mementos that make up a life.
Living in California, I have been evacuated for threat of fire to our home before. It’s a very unsettling feeling, not knowing if you have a place to come home to.
This time we were more fortunate – we had one day that we were engulfed in smoke due to a change in wind direction, but no call to evacuate this time.
At times like these, it is our relationships that are most important. We had a good friend who offered to put us up back when we were evacuated and were in need.
This time, a different friend called us at 1:30am because of their immediate evacuation order and all the hotels in town being booked up.
His family and children arrived at 3am and we were happy to provide shelter – sleepless or not – with the memory and gratitude of our other friend’s kindness back when we needed it.
Crisis tends to open our hearts with compassion. These past few days as we were contacting friends to see if they were okay, we received the same messages from other friends and family – some across the country and across the oceans! – asking if we were safe and if there was anything they could do.
We heard heart-warming stories of people banding together in their neighborhoods to help save each other’s houses or bring in supplies to those stranded because of road closures. The importance of being connected in a community cannot be overemphasized.
It brings to mind what a friend related when she lost everything in a fire many years ago. We all felt so bad for her loss that we held an impromptu gathering at her new apartment, bringing clothes, household items, furniture to help her get a new start.
As we were talking, she spoke of her process of letting go of her identity in all the things she owned. She was a photographer and all her photos were gone. She was an avid reader and all her books were gone. All her mementos, memories of her previous life were gone.
She said “I didn’t know who I was anymore,” and that it was a strange sensation to be so “afloat”. And then with the generosity of her friends around her, she said she finally realized who she REALLY is – all she is, she said, is her relationships.
This is true for all of us. You know the saying “You can’t take it with you.” When our bodies are gone, I do believe our spirits live on, and probably all that we can take with us is the love we shared with those we loved.
This thought humbles me when I am in the midst of being frustrated with a friend’s or family member’s idiosyncracies. All we ever truly have is the relationships we have around us – nothing else!
So let’s not wait for a crisis or tragedy to open our hearts. Let’s practice staying as open-hearted as we possibly can in our everyday interactions with everyone we meet.
Every less-than-stellar service person, every bad date, every ex-lover, every frustrating friend or family member – they all represent the love that we can take with us, IF we remember that there is some love to be shared with each of them at any given moment. Even in an imperfect moment.
And of course, it all starts with your loving relationship with YOURSELF. If we can’t love ourselves on a DEEP level – not just pampering ourselves, which isn’t always love – then we don’t know how to truly love others either. If we remain hard on ourselves, demanding, un-forgiving, then we block any love we could give to, or receive from, anyone else.
So I send you blessings for knowing the true, deep love for yourself that extends out to others and is reflected back to you in turn. As the Beatles said, “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
If you have any thoughts to add to this article, leave them in the comments below or on my Facebook page here. Blessings!