Friday, May 17, 2013

Burning Down the House

A beautiful house on our block burst into flames on a random Wednesday last month. The flames were so large and intense the local FD fought the fire from around 2am until after 8am.

The scariest part for me, as a mother, was that we live just 4 houses down on the same side of the street and my entire family slept through the sirens, the ruckus and the multiple shifts of firefighters for the full 6+ hours that they were just a hop, skip and a jump from my sleeping sweeties.

I cannot put into words how grateful I am. If it weren't for the speed and dedication of our local fire department, who knows how many houses the fire would have engulfed. We didn't even know it had happened until we drove by it when we dropped the girls off at school.

The experience brought up a few reactions that I know are linked to my religious upbringing. The first words out of my mouth were, "Oh my god." Then I let the words, "Thank heaven" slip past my lips. Granted, being raised Mormon I would have never said Oh my god, that's just rude and taking gods name in vain. But the fact that the first words I said were religiously skewed, made me think. I thought about how years ago I probably would have knelt down to praise and thank god for not letting the fire get to my house. How selfish that would have been. Being grateful that their house burnt down, but mine was fine. And how odd that would be, thanking god for having put out a fire that he himself could have prevented.

As I was trying to shut the door on the selfish skeletons in my closet, I started thinking about what I could do to really show how grateful I am that the fire didn't spread throughout the entire neighborhood.

The first thing I did was talk to the older couple who live next door to the house that caught fire. They are the only neighbor, as that house is on a corner, but their house is only about 10 feet from it. I spoke to her about the ordeal and she told me how they were woken up by police banging on their door a little after 2am that morning, how scary it was, how high the flames were, how she cried and cried worried that she was going to lose her home, how the police wouldn't let her back in her home, and how she is so grateful that embers didn't cause her house to explode in flames.

I let her vent about how scary it was and I offered her my understanding, empathy and sympathy for her feelings and fears. I then offered my phone number and pointed to my house, just in case there was anything I could actually physically do for her and her husband. 

I then wanted to do something for the people who lost their home in the fire, only to learn that house wasn't lived in currently. Which on it's own is something to be so grateful for. No one lost their lives, or anything of sentimental value. The house itself is a total loss, but it could have been so much worse.

I then decided the next logical step was to thank the firefighters. I had my daughters write them thank you notes and had them draw the firefighters pictures. We then worked together to make them a perler bead magnet for the firehouse fridge. I also decided that treats and a picture (above) were in order as well. Nothing says thank you quite like sweets.

Being non-religious made me look for ways to actually show my gratitude, rather than give it to an imaginary being who, in a round about way, actually caused the problem in the first place.  I know that many religious people would have done the same thing I actually did. But I also know that often times religious people use prayer as a crutch, to offer something without actually offering anything.  I found that I can no longer utilize that crutch. Being non-religious means that I actually do something, or nothing at all. And I knew that I had to choose the option that would give my gratitude the proper outlet.

Being non-religious has made me a better person because I use my logic, reasoning and heart instead of blindly following a prophet or ancient text just because my invisible friend says so.


DRoss said...

Awesome. The basis of comparison between your past religious self and your current atheist self led you to do even more.

I was raised without religion and arrived at atheism at around age 25. Without the stark religious backdrop, I don't think I would have thought to express thanks in such a cool way. :)

Makes me think of taxes too - good thing we have a fire department.

rockyabq said...

Well done, Leia! You make us proud.