Clash of Concepts

November 28 – Prevent

“Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”

Remember Smoky Bear’s directive?

Fires were always something to prevent. As a newspaper reporter, I covered several fire prevention events and photographed too many house fires.

Each house fire always took me back to the mid-1970s when our little farmhouse burned to the ground. We lost everything. The structure of the house was completely gone, replaced by a pile of ashes.

By the grace of God, we were not home.

My family was devastated by the fire. Displaced. Separated. Lost.

I was the only one of us in school, so I stayed with the neighbors or a family friend so I could continue to go to class. My mom and younger siblings alternated staying with grandparents, and my dad floated from one couch to another.

My great loss in the fire was my Ho-Ho—a terrycloth-covered, stuffed Santa Claus. And then, after staying with the neighbors, I left behind my Sunshine Family dolls—the neighbors moved before I could retrieve them. I had lost all that meant anything to me.

That’s what was important to my about-7-year-old self.

Propel forward 30 years.

My mother-in-law, an avid doll collector, knew I had lost the Sunshine Family at an early age, so when she found one for sale, she snatched it up and presented it to me, along with the Sunshine grandparents and house.

How thrilled my inner child was!

And just a few years ago, my aunt presented me with a gift her husband found at an auction—a duplicate Ho-Ho to mine—but with an additional reindeer.

My heart was full of gladness!

The lesson is this: We can’t prevent losses, but we can determine how we react to loss.

And who knows the outcome?

We may just end up with more than we lost.

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