Monday, July 22, 2013

What would you take if you had 5 minutes to grab & go?

'fire 5' photo (c) 2006, Loco Steve - license:

Due to the lack of moisture and hot summer temperatures, Colorado once again is in the midst of a tough forest fire season. The Black Forest Fire this past June was particularly damaging, causing an estimated $85 Billion in damages, nearing the $110 Billion in damages from the Waldo Canyon fire of 2012.  Both fires were particularly costly because they burned in residential areas, consuming scores of structures and property.  While I have written in the past about forest fires and public policy, I wish to explore another perspective.

Shortly after the Black Forest Fire, Colorado Public Radio interviewed a resident who had recently been allowed to return to his property.  He was fortunate in that his home had been spared, despite the destruction of other homes nearby.  Recounting how he had only a few minute’s notice to evacuate, the interviewer then asked the man what he had taken.  He shared that he had taken some family keepsakes and photo albums.  The interviewer then asked another intriguing question, that being what item or items the man had not taken that he would have on second thought.  While he mentioned an antique restoration project in his garage, I myself pondered what items I would choose if in a similar predicament.

Having given it some thought, there are certainly a few things I would grab such as photo albums, my wife’s scrapbooks, and my journal. I’m not sure there are many other “must haves.” Though CPR doesn’t have the lists yet accessible of what others would grab, I imagine their lists would be similar to mine; Family keepsakes, pictures, treasured notes, etc.  It’s funny in a way to think about all the things we would not be first to grab, the things that are worth the most monetarily. Things like flat screen TV’s, computers, appliances, and so on. Sure, someone might grab their laptop or tablet, but that surround sound stereo is most likely staying put.

I’m reminded of the rom-com Leap Year, in which Amy Adams’s character is challenged by a rival love interest to measure the strength and depth of her current relationship based on what he would grab in the event of a fire. Sure enough, back home and recently engaged, she pulls the fire alarm and watches in stunned silence as her fiancĂ© rushes around grabbing technology.  Realizing the relationship has no depth or value she leaves him and goes off to the other guy.
'Gold-Treasure' photo (c) 2008, Mark Herpel - license:

What also comes to mind is the admonition in Matthew 6:19-20. Here, Jesus is recorded advising his followers to not invest in things that can be stolen or destroyed, but rather that which is everlasting.  Isn’t that just the opposite of what we do though? We buy into the consumerist mindset of having the latest tech  gear, the trendiest fashions,  and the most elegant furnishings. We work long hours, sacrificing time with friends or family so we can make money to buy all those “treasures;” otherwise known as all the things we will leave behind in a fire and will subsequently get burned up or otherwise destroyed. 

The past few years at Christmas I’ve tried to back away from asking for gifts—stuff that’s just going to go bad or get destroyed. In fact, I’ve began asking for things that won’t just end up in a landfill one day.  I’d rather have gifts like a memorable dinner, an unexpected surprise, or a special act. These are things which won’t go bad and things which I can always take with me.  And of course, relationships are what these gifts are all about.

So let’s spend less time and money investing in things that will go bad, get destroyed, or end up in a landfill. Rather let’s spend what time and resources we have on each other, on our relationships—building on the one’s we currently have and engaging in making new ones.—for it’s our relationships and our memories that will always be with us.

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