Lately, I’ve noticed lots of optimistic statements—platitudes that speak of looking on the bright side, living out-of-the-box, seeing the glass half full. I quote them myself, but I wonder if I and the others who sing these positive mantras would put them into practice if a devastating crisis came to our door.
I’ve always admired my youngest sister, Laura, yet after seeing how her family was tested last summer, I’m even more proud of her. She’s faced serious challenges in the past, but this time a devastating wildfire blasted through their Alaskan property. I’m blown away by her optimism. Her words are so inspiring, I asked permission to share part of a letter she wrote at Christmas. She said yes.
Here’s what happened to them:
“Most of you know that we were affected by the Sockeye fire in Willow. When the fire started we were in Arkansas, and were thankful Dan’s mom [her mother-in-law] was able to get herself and the dogs out before the fire swept through the neighborhood. We lost our cabin, that Dan’s mom lived in for thirteen years, our 26’ travel trailer, our shed and our trees—about 67 acres. The power of a wildfire is amazing!”
Laura and her husband knew that a forest fire, in their lovely woods, was a possibility. I admire how she expresses gratitude that no lives were lost. Because they were away, they were also spared the trauma of this powerful event.
She continues to tell about the clean-up:
“The debris from our two-story cabin, that took years for us to build and finish, was cleaned up in a day….all that remained fit into one eight yard dumpster. We can’t control what happens to us, however, we can control how we react.”
Laura and Dan, like true Alaskan’s, did not hire anyone to build their cabin. Instead, they put on their work gloves and did it themselves—which I find amazing. So coming to terms with losing the building and also the many hours of labor it took to construct it, is a test of character. Laura’s observation of how the fire transformed their labor into something quiet insignificant is also a lesson.
I’m sure they mourn this loss, yet their choice to ‘let it go’ is a defining moment for them as well as a life lesson for their children. They are also fortunate to be supported by their neighbors, some with more serious losses. They are not alone, but a part of a resilient community.
They’re now looking forward to the future:
“The fire gave our children a chance to help clean up and improve our property. Dan has spent many hours on the planning stage as new options for developing our land come up. Ideas include: a driving range and practice green, archery course, and multi-use trails. We are also thinking of farm options—potatoes, raspberries, Christmas trees…”
Her words are a flame of optimism. First of all, she’s not shielding her children from this unfortunate event; she shows respect by including them in the clean-up and gives them a voice in brainstorming possibilities for the future. If I were her child, I’d be thinking, I get it. This bad thing happened, and it took our property. We are sad, but it did not destroy our spirit. We now have a chance to build something new and better. Good things can come from bad events! This example serves as a model for healthy coping, healthy living, and builds confidence and self-trust.
Laura and her husband have transformed what most of us would call a tragedy into a creative exercise in living—the glass is overflowing. Their optimism shows us that we need not be defined by the events that come our way. I’m grateful to witness this kind of resilience and resourcefulness. Thanks sister!
May self-trust build your confidence,