Sunday, March 2, 2014

Anne Lamott's story in "Stitches"

 A Little different addition to the blog today.  I was stirred by Anne Lamott's story in her new book STITCHES. I want to share her story to show that there are people in this world and under dire circumstances relate to God and each other in ways that help, not hurt!
The story is not word for word but it is directly from her new book:

Fifteen years ago, there was a local tragedy. It was not a mass shooting or a tsunami, but it was devastating still, with four teenage boys at fault.

She describes the town: It is a coastal town of about 1,500 people . . . .a place where there was warm water after the tide receded, a seafood eating place. . . It was artsy, hidden away, with gulls and pelicans overhead. On the drive to the town, you could pull over, get out of the car and jump into the bay. There are sheltered beaches, tiled in shells and beach glass; and boats and fishermen, shaded lanes and towering trees; and a few overpriced places to eat.  Many of the townspeople go back generations; others came in the 1960s.  .  . the palette is Gauguin, wild. . . .

In 1995, there was a huge and devastating fire on the long majestic ridge that runs for miles out to the bay. Four older teenage boys from town had camped there overnight, illegally built a campfire, buried it under dirt when they left in the morning, and caused a fire that destroyed 12,000 acres of wilderness area and nearly fifty homes.

Helicopters saved the town with water from the bay; the water was dropped on the pine forest between the town and the burning ridge. But the loss of wildlife was unimaginable; birds, deer, coyote, bobcats, mountain lions, beavers. It was as if a bomb had fallen.

A few weeks after the fire the SFChronicle published a letter from a reader. The writer described the heroism of the firefighters, the community's round-the-clock efforts to save whatever could be saved, the generosity and compassion we've come to expect after a natural and man-made catastrophes, the coming together.

The four teenage boys who had accidentally started the fire turned themselves in early on, with their parents beside them.

How do you jiggle a miracle out of rage, ghastliness, terror, ash, grief and teenage boys?

A firefighter had written a letter to a local paper about how carefully the boys had tried to put out the fire. Though they had extinguished the flames, embers were still burning underground. The boys hadn't known this could be a fire danger. They'd left.

After that, even as townspeople continued to share their loss and pain, they also told stories of their worst teenage mistakes and transgressions.  There was a picnic held to honor the firefighters. The whole town turned out.  The president of the Board of Firefighters gave a speech, but at the end, he digressed from what you might have expected him to say.

He talked about how in ancient times, people who did damage to a town were sent to live outside it's walls, beyond the pale, or boundary, beyond the community, beyond inclusion and protection.  He mentioned the four young men who had started the fire, that he had heard their families were thinking about moving away. He thought the town should make it clear to the families that they should stay, that they are wanted, that they were needed.

There was sustained applause. People whose houses had burned down came up to the speaker to say they agreed with this plan. The town wanted these young men inside the pale, inside the ring of protection.  "So what seems to me to be happening is that this community, which has just fought so stubbornly to save itself from a holocaust, has turned, almost without missing a beat, to try to save the future of four young men." said the author of the letter to the Chronicle columnist.

Numbers 6:24-26

New International Version (NIV)
24 May the Lord bless you
    and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”’


Proverb 18:4 Your words can be like life-giving water.

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