Hope sometimes comes to us in unexpected ways, often from the hands of a child.
A month ago, after 12 years in Las Vegas, my husband and I moved back to California, to be closer to our growing family.
We are slowly resettling in the house where my children grew up. But recently, I flew back to Vegas, to take care of a few loose ends. When I left Monterey, it was 68 degrees; when I landed in Vegas, my rental car claimed it was 118. I believed it.
I spent the week running from AC to AC. Finally, when I had tied up most of the loose ends, I headed back to the airport.
Waiting to board the flight to Monterey, I checked the news for the latest on the California wildfires. It wasn’t good. And it was getting worse.
I’d been concerned for days about fires near Yosemite. But that was the first I’d heard about an inferno threatening Redding.
I took the news personally. For years, the Record Searchlight has carried my column. I often hear from its readers. I’ve never lived in the area, but I’ve visited for speaking engagements and always felt “right at home.”
Tragedy knows no boundaries. We don’t need to live in a town to share in its suffering and pray for the deliverance of its people.
I immediately emailed a dear friend who lives in Redding, to say I was praying for her and her family and her neighbors.
Hours later, I was home when she finally replied. As of that evening, she said, their home was still standing. But many, or perhaps most, of the houses in their subdivision were gone. Winds were expected to pick up overnight. And they were told it would be at least a week before they could return home.
I read her note twice, every word, all that she said and did not say. Then I took a long look around my house, at all the things that make it our home – the keepsakes, the treasures, the family photos, the priceless memories framed by its walls.
I couldn’t imagine how it would feel to see it in ashes. And the thought of losing “things” was nothing compared to the horror of losing loved ones.
Lucky for me, the next day, my grandson came over while his mom ran errands. Henry is 6, and marvelously distracting.
We went out to lunch, drove by the beach and stopped in a shop that sells dinosaur puppets and rubber sharks with legs poking out of their mouths.
All the while, in bits and pieces, my heart and prayers kept circling back to Redding.
We came home and I made dinner while Hen played a video game with my husband. My daughter came back from her errands and we all ate pasta and shrimp. Her husband was working late. So she and Henry decided to spend the night.
At bedtime, I let Henry pick a book. He chose a favorite, his and mine, a small package of hope, and handed it to me.
“Life” by Cynthia Rylant is, I promise, the perfect book to share with a child, or to read to yourself when you need to be reminded of why we are here.
Rylant is both a poet and a wonder. And Brendan Wenzel’s illustrations are glorious. Henry knows that book by heart. So we read it aloud together:
“Life begins small. Even for elephants. Then it grows.”
We turned the pages slowly, one by one, to my favorite part:
“Remember this: in every corner of the world, there is something to love. And something to protect.”
That’s the part where Henry always looks at me and grins.
At the end, we closed the book and nodded at each other. Then I tucked Henry and his mama into bed in the room where she slept when she was his age.
Before I fell asleep, I felt my heart and my prayers reach out once again to my friend and all her neighbors in a lovely corner of the world called Redding.
The world is a big place. And the ocean is wide. And we are all in this tiny boat together.
– Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove CA 93950, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.