When I was about six, my father responded to disasters for the American Red Cross. On one specific occasion, he took me with him to work a fire that had devastated a home. The walls were now a few posts, the roof a skylight. I remember the ash on the floor and the harsh stench of ash. When we entered the home, we met a couple, overwhelmed by the loss they had just endured.
When my father offered them lodging and care packages of toothbrushes, razors and other basic necessities that we take for granted, their dark demeanor changed to one of overjoyed gratitude.
A young girl joined us in what used to be the living room. She must have been about 16, maybe 17 years old. She asked for her parents’ car keys. She needed to get her volleyball uniform out of their car. She wanted to go support her team… the night after she lost everything.
I looked over my shoulder towards the bedrooms. I tried to figure out which one was hers. I imagined all of her clothes were burned – now ashes on the floor.
Pictures of memories with family and friends were gone. Her clothes were gone. They were left with nothing but what they carried out the night of the fire.
They were starting over – Holding on to the life they had, holding on to what they hoped. They left with their family and memories of a life undisturbed.
I still remember that girl. For that, I am thankful she reminds me of what really matters.
I have included a beautiful song by Imogen Heap. “Fire” sounds like Heap knows about that kind of loss – perhaps like the young girl from my childhood.