In October of 2003 the Mountains of San Bernardino County were awash in flames. The Grand Prix fire was in its glory burning across the countryside like a fully loaded freight train. Every evening the members of my community would gather on their street and watch as the flames glowed in the distance coming ever closer to our homes.
It was a Friday morning in late October. I remember it clearly because I awoke to a strong smell of smoke. I went outside to see where the fire had progressed to and was shocked. It was less than a mile from my house. (see photo below) Although I lived over a half mile from the fire line with other suburbs directly between my family and the fire, there was still cause for concern. You see there is an electrical right of way cutting down from the mountains running along the back wall of all my neighbors’ houses across the street from my house. The fire could burn up to within 300 feet of my front door. If the fire burns down here I thought all bets are off. It did!
So imagine being faced with an unthinkable situation. Your house and all your worldly possessions could go up in flames any minute.
What do you do?
What do you think about?
Do you panic?
Do you reach out for help?
Moments like these are, as one writer put it, when true character is revealed. I watched with fascination as a few of my neighbors packed everything conceivable into their oversized SUV’s and off to a safe place they scurried. Others casually sought hotel reservations and made a short holiday of the affair. What did I do?
I took stock of the situation and considered my values. Faith Family, Integrity, Learning Teaching. I decided that only the first two were at play here. Everything I “own” is on loan. I am a steward of the possessions God gave me. This made the decision easy. The stuff is irrelevant. It might be a good idea to grab the will, the insurance policies and the photos that could not be replaced, but that’s it. Next take care of the family. We were fortunate to be invited to stay in the home of a dear friend and pastor of our church.
That fateful day taught me a lesson about myself and others. We all value something. I have heard it said that if you want to know what a person values study their check book or perhaps their debit card receipts these days. Where people spend their money is a pretty good indication of what they value. So to quote the credit card commercial…
What’s in your wallet?