Tag Archives: First Responders

Is The World On Fire? Fires, Floods, & DACA

6 Sep


I came home from cool, rainy Alaska to witness a fire that looked like Armaggedon. Ensconced in work and the beauty of a rugged landscape, I had no idea that LA had become an inferno and that the hills of Burbank were engulfed in flame. My uber driver and I were stunned at the apocalyptic scene before us as we drove along the highway from the airport. I grew up in California so I’m familiar with wild fires consuming the state, but I’d never witnessed anything of this intensity so near. It seemed as if the whole town was on fire. All you have to do is google Burbank fire images to see the magnitude of Mother Nature’s Force. I’m not certain who took this photo and posted it on the Internet but this is indeed what it looked like.


Three days later, through the incredible efforts of the Burbank, Glendale, and Los Angeles Fire Departments, the fire was contained. The LAPD also did an extraordinary job in the united stance, keeping people and most homes safe.

It was a reminder of how important our neighbors are. When tragedy hits, we need people around us. But even when there is no trauma, we need each other. The older I get the more I value basic human connection. It’s important to know our neighbors. Don’t just wave. Invite folks over for a drink or bake them cookies. Chat when you pick up the mail and bitch together about the ghastly heat and how your football team always loses.

Our relationships with those most geographically near are important. But that neighborly spirit should be applied in a national, international, and universal context as well. We are not meant to live in an isolated, nuclear-family bubble, or as an isolated being all on one’s own. We’re meant to care and connect with those beyond our immediate tribe and existence.

I was touched that while away for the last few weeks, my colleagues, students, and hotel staff were my family. I was equally moved that when I came home, I saw and heard from people who are like family. Family doesn’t have to be biological. Deep down, we’re all related and while we may feel more close to some over others, we’re all interconnected. Those little encounters in the grocery store, at the yoga class, and while out on a walk over time start to comprise one’s community and one’s life. Who is sick? Who just had a death in the family? Who needs a hand because a fixture in the house just broke? We need each other. We need company.

The Houston floods bring this all too close to awareness as well. In a deluge, suddenly your house, your pets, and your stability can be gone. The only stability comes from the connections we forge with one another even if brief and temporary. We are one spirit and body. Deep down there is no separation if we lift the veneer of superficiality.

This other picture circulated on the Internet. I don’t know the original source of the photo but who of us hasn’t felt like this cat? Cold, wet, exhausted and pissed! I commend this cat for his fighting spirit but no one should have to brave it alone forever. At some point, this cat deserves a safe landing. I hope he finds a good neighbor who can look out for him even though he obviously knows how to fend for himself. We need each other.



Yes Officer, I Know Why You Pulled Me Over…

16 Mar

A few days ago while driving in an unfamiliar city, I committed a minor traffic offense. I was hopelessly lost thanks to MapQuest and not knowing that there is a big difference between avenues and streets in Phoenix. There were virtually no cars on the street save for the officer’s, which looked like a plain clothes automobile.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” the policeman asked me.

“Yes, I do.”

I think he was used to people denying their actions.

I looked him straight in the eye. “Perhaps it’s Providence you pulled me over because I’m totally lost. I can’t find my hotel.”

I then shoved my MapQuest papers into his hands. Upon looking at them, he too was perplexed.

He didn’t write me a ticket. Instead, he helped me out.

Cops get a very bad rap. They’re accused of brutality and killing innocents. Yet I’ve worked with a number of officers, training them to teach a public education course called Mental Health First Aid http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org and I think it’s time we start airing some of the positive stories. Stories that highlight their deep dedication to helping others and to showing up day after day in an incredibly stressful job.



My mom was pulled over many times by cops for driving under the influence. She was cuffed and taken to jail, and while in jail, she was often put on suicide watch. So every officer I meet who cares about mental health issues and the lives of others, heals a piece of my heart. I am grateful to the police who bring Mental Health First Aid to their precincts and who are making a difference in their communities. Hats off to them!