Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What is Really Important?

Earlier this month on the even of Rosh Hashana the Jewish New Year, my family and the other 11 households who make up our small cohousing community, were faced with a difficult decision. At that time, a raging forest fire was gobbling up thousands of acres of Colorado forest just a few miles west of our community.

Earlier that morning the neighborhood near our location were told to prepare for a possible evacuation if the winds picked up and the fire jumped the fire line. To our relief that turned out to be unnecessary.

Just in case, members of our community met briefly to talk about our situation and to set up an overnight web and visual watch for an evacuation order for our part of town.

During that informal gathering, the topic of what should we pack became a central topic of conversation. The diversity of strongly felt opinions showcased how different people value their possessions. It was a common theme that packing required medicines, old family photos, and paper documents — which would be extremely difficult to track down or recreate — were mentioned by everyone. But beyond those items the conversations became very interesting and personal.

For one community member who is very athletic, he said he would be taking several of his bikes if an evacuation was required. Another resident said her clothing would be almost impossible to replace and would plan to fill her car with as many clothes as possible. A third resident commented that his life is mostly digital and it was all securely backed up at a remote location. "Look at my house," he commented. "I am not one to collect things and would probably not take much of anything with me if I had to leave."

Even in my own family there was a wide range of priorities as we were forced to decide what should be taken if it was all you had left when the fire was over. It was these conversations for me that placed all the material aspects of our world into stark perspective. It offered me the opportunity to be grateful for the people in my life and skills I have acquired that can be taken with me where ever I go.

I would never wish a fire on anyone but the chance to decide "What is Really Important?" was a very valuable exercise I would suggest we all do every once in a while.

No comments: