Gratitude under fire: A thank-you from California

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I don’t know where to begin with this post, but I thought gratitude might be a good start. If anything, this week has taught me that checking in and being connected is a sacred privilege. To all of you, thank you.

To the first responders: firefighters, police officers, EMTs, national guardsmen, pilots, military, and volunteers- thank you is not enough.

We are thankful for every single soul who has braved these fires on the front lines not just because it is their job but because they care. A few days ago we ran into two young firefighters from San Diego while getting our collective coffee on their 24 hour break and we thanked them profusely, embarrassing them even — their response: “We are honored that you have let us in to help.” They wouldn’t let us buy them coffee despite our insistence. Grateful to witness their genuine grace.

We are thankful to have each other. Our family, our incredible friends Mandi and Jeff who have housed us, let us cook for them and provided us not just shelter but real home while we are displaced from ours. They have created a calm reprieve in the storm and helped us weather it together with warmth, humor, and action.

Again, grace.

We are thankful to witness the kindness pouring out through our communities, the resilience and camaraderie is beyond understanding until you are bathed in its light.

We are thankful for every single friend and family member near and far who reached out to make sure we are OK.

And while it pains me to say it, I am thankful for nature. You enduring, thoughtless, bitch who puts us in our respective places and reminds us that we are at your will. By making us feel this small, we collectively become so large. You hold all the cards and we must respect you even when you are cruel and unfair. I am so mad at you right now. I am so sickened that you would take lives, homes and businesses. You hold all the cards but I will remain grateful to be put in my place. We must never take you for granted.

And now, finally, we are thankful to be home. The ashes, dirty laundry and unfinished puzzles on the table were a welcome sight. I am so incredibly sad that so many do not get this relief. I only glimpsed what it might be like to have one’s home extinguished and it is terrifying. Please hold everyone going through that in your heart, your meditations, your prayers. They will need our help for a long while after the storm has passed.

Our community has been feeding first responders and evacuees, offering their homes and businesses, and most of all, their tireless energy. I am in awe of this community and this overwhelmingly selflessness.

This could happen to any of us at any time. Please, if you can, send donations not just to Northern California but also to our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico who must feel forgotten and alone. All it takes is the force of nature to remind us that we must cultivate the best of our own.

So, we forge ahead now to help them...to come together to help them rebuild in the face of immeasurable loss.

Kassidy Harris Juncker, of Calistoga, California, grew up in Whitefish and graduated from Whitefish High School in 1995. She is now marketing and public relations director for Dominus Estate Winery in California. She was evacuated from her home for almost a week, but reports that she was one of the lucky ones who had a home to go back to.

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