Have you ever seen an athlete being interviewed just seconds after they cross the finish line in a race? The athlete is huffing and puffing, and trying to digest what just happened out there. The interviewer is usually asking ridiculous questions like “How does it feel to win?” “Did you go into the race knowing this would be the outcome?” Or even better “What’s next for you?” The whole time I’m always thinking “Will you please give them a minute to compose themselves, catch their breath, soak it all in, recover maybe?”
Just over two months after the Camp Fire and I find myself thinking the same thing for Chico. Give us a second. We need time to catch our breath, take in what just happened, and look to our future. People keep asking us “What’s the plan?” Our best answer, as we stand with our hands on our knees, just trying to breathe, is “I don’t know,” and that’s because we don’t. Many people are calling Chico a city in crisis. I don’t disagree with this sentiment, but to them I say just give us a minute. There are hurting people every where, and these hurting people don’t always make the best decisions, but while we are recovering and taking a breath, so are they.
Instead of seeing the housing crisis, and lamenting the unsightly trailers on some of our previously unlittered streets, think of the hundreds of people who had big enough hearts and homes to house a hurting person with nowhere to go. I know a group of women in Chico who took it upon themselves to connect the elderly folks in the shelters with willing Chico residents who had room in their homes to spare. This is Chico in crisis.
Instead of thinking about students invading our schools and buildings to get an education, think of the churches, teachers, and students who are offering their valuable time and resources to help some students in need continue their educations. I think of a local high school opening its doors to students and teachers to reunite a week after the fire providing basic necessities, school supplies, and dinner to these people in their greatest time of need. This is Chico in crisis.
Instead of seeing the full relief shelters as a burden, remember that Chico had so many donations for these locations that we had to ask our people to stop giving. I think of local businesses who created new items to sell and gave all of the proceeds to the Camp Fire Relief Fund, or restaurants downtown giving portions of Tuesday night sales to Camp Fire Relief. This is Chico in crisis.
Instead of seeing a rise in crime, and a strain on our medical community, think of what our first responders endured, and how their heroic measures saved lives on that day. I think of the doctors and nurses who hauled patients into their cars from Feather River Hospital and made the harrowing journey down the hill. Or the firefighters, policemen, and other law enforcement, who spent the entire day, and days following, driving up and down the hill to bring people to safety. This is Chico in crisis.
And lastly instead of thinking of traffic and population rising think of the great opportunity we have to genuinely and literally “love our neighbor.” We have a daily opportunity to love, forgive, and give grace to someone who is driving slow because they are lost in a new city, or who is making our grocery shopping trip 30 minutes instead of 20. Let’s show the world that we are caring, loving, strong, compassionate, and resilient. Let’s show them that we are Butte Strong. Let’s show them that this is Chico in crisis.