I never wanted nor planned to sit down and explain this to my kids. I figured it was a matter of time until their growing awareness would intersect with one of life’s unfortunate circumstances.
What I did plan to do when the time came was to instill in them the idea that when bad things happen and there is an opportunity to help, you show up.
Wednesday, October 11, was three days after the fires started in Northern California. The air in San Francisco was thick with smoke and there were ashes in my kitchen from people’s destroyed lives. I woke up in the middle of the night and booked a hotel four hours south for three nights. I woke my husband, Paul, and told him we were leaving in the morning. I’m not going to lie; he wasn’t psyched about my late night nonrefundable booking and lack of consult. I reasoned with him that with our daughter, Sara’s, asthma it was either a hotel bill or a hospital bill, and so we packed the car and headed south.
During our four-hour drive, we talked to Sara about what was happening, about the people who were getting hurt and losing their homes. We talked to her about ways we could help them.
Once we arrived and checked into the hotel, we found a woman who was coordinating a drop off to Santa Rosa. That day we went to Walmart to buy things from the long list of needs. We made plans for another drop off of larger donations for when we got home to SF, but it fell through. So I kept trying, searching online and reaching out to find ways to help, but nothing seemed to lead anywhere.
Two weeks into trying, my spirited efforts to help dwindled. It’s hard to hold on to someone else’s loss when the force of regular life pulls you back in.
It shouldn’t be.
I was standing in the hallway when I heard Sara, who is four, in her room talking to her brother, Jack, who is one. Sara was putting toys into a bag for the people who lost their homes. Jack was taking them back out. “C’mon, Jack,” she said, “Let’s put toys in the bag for the families who lost their homes.”
There you go again, I thought, being a better person than I am.
Self-edit to my parenting goals: I will instill in my kids that when bad things happen, you show up *even when it proves difficult to do so.
That day I started a campaign to have San Francisco families sign-up to become Santas and adopt survivors of the North Bay Area fires for Christmas.
To date, we have over sixty Santas. That means (at least) sixty survivor families who are inside of whirlwind of loss will have some Christmas delivered to them.
Thank you Santa Sara.
If you know a Survivor family that could use some love this Christmas, email me at [email protected]