This I Believe

Rea - Ramona, California
Entered on January 30, 2008

I generally do not have a lot of faith in people when I interact with them on a daily basis. They seem to be selfish, untrue, and caught up in their own problems. I have heard the famous phrase “Without suffering, there is no compassion”. I didn’t believe it, though, until the fires of October 2007 came rolling in.

There’s something about disaster that brings people together. When my hometown of Ramona woke up to a wall of flames, everybody panicked at first. Everyone got their own things together and prepared to save their own homes and their own families. But as the fires continued to burn, I started to see new actions take place on the news stations. Many people who stayed behind helped to rescue abandoned animals, such as horses, from neighbor’s houses, and brought them to safety. Not only did they do that, but they also fed them, gave them water, and tried to heal any burns that the animals had. This was just the beginning of it.

Much of the town had felt they learned a valuable lesson in the Cedar fires of October 2003, and evacuated their homes, leaving them to burn to the ground. They didn’t feel it was worth the risk this time to try and save anything they left. Again, selfless actions took place as some everyday civilians united with some retired firefighters who had stayed behind, and took matters into their own hands to try and save any houses possible they saw that were in the path of fire. This was amazing! People were protecting neighborhoods from looters, taking care of animals, and saving houses that belonged to people of which some of them didn’t even know! But again, this was not the end of it.

Companies, volunteers, and organizations opened up shelters for anyone who had no place to go, fed them, clothed them, and housed them. Grocery and retail stores gave away free merchandise, hundreds or thousands of dollars worth, for anyone who might need it. And by the end of the week, many lives were saved but many homes were lost. But the compassion never ceased. Neighbors took in families who had no home, some paid for people to stay in a hotel until they got their feet back on the ground, and everywhere I went, the people I interacted with were really considerate.

A man I know who works at a gas station, and is usually never in a good mood, invited those who had stayed behind in Ramona to save houses, to come sit with him and he gave them free dinners and drinks and even got the price of gas lowered! This was because some people weren’t able to leave town because they didn’t have enough money at the time to fill their gas tanks and evacuate. I had never seen such compassion in my life.

I have learned that even though there were problems such as looters and scammers, that compassion still didn’t stop. People were given sincere help in a time of need, no questions asked. Yes, there was and still is suffering due to the California fires of October 2007. But it is true that without suffering, there is no compassion. This I believe.