Finding Gratitude Where You Least Expect It

In September, the attic in my home caught on fire. I was downstairs, my husband was upstairs, and we heard a crackling sound. Minutes later we saw and smelled smoke coming from the attic. I called 911, we left the house, and in a matter of minutes, ten fire trucks were lined up on our street. The firefighters took swift action and quickly extinguished the fire. As we stood outside, watching the firefighters file into our home, we were both surprisingly calm. So much so that our neighbors, who had slowly crowded around us, took notice and said things like “I can’t believe you are so calm” and “I would be losing it right now.” In that moment I thought’ “losing what?” 


It took a moment to dawn on me that our house was on fire. When I realized we needed to get out of the house, the only things I thought about grabbing were my handbag, phone, car keys, and shoes. Nothing else seemed important. My husband left the house with only his phone and shoes. Neither of us worried or clamored about collecting items to take with us. We had what we deemed to be essential at that time and the rest was unnecessary. 


We waited outside until we were signaled that it was safe enough for us to enter. We followed the firefighters into our home and saw the damage. Most of the fire damage was contained to the attic, where the fire started, and the underside of the roof. The other damage was from the water the firefighters used to stop the fire. We were informed that we would need to find someplace else to stay and to pack up a few things. It was challenging to decide what to take with us. We did not know when we would be able to return the house. After about 30 minutes, we had what we thought we would need for the remainder of the week and into the weekend. We stayed with my cousin that night and the night after. It felt like a whirlwind from the time we detected the fire, until bedtime later that night. There were numerous phone calls to our insurance company and to family and friends. 


Two days later, we were informed that we would be placed in an extended stay hotel. I was excited about how quickly our insurance company responded and I was also apprehensive. No one could tell us how long we would be in the hotel and at this time, we still did not know the full extent of damage to our home. To top it all off, my husband had a conference to attend out of town that weekend. He was going back and forth trying to decide if he would go. I was fully capable of handling things in his absence so I encouraged him to go and to honor his commitment. He and I were both safe, and there was not much he could do by staying in Atlanta.


He left for the weekend and I packed up the belongings we brought with us to my cousin’s house and moved into our hotel. My initial thoughts were “this is way too small.” And in that moment, a huge feeling of gratitude hit me. Why would I complain about living in a hotel for a few months why our home is repaired? I was tremendously grateful that no one was hurt in the fire and that for the most part, our home is okay. I was also grateful for having homeowner’s insurance. The firefighters were swift and courageous. My husband was calm and brave. My cousin was accommodating and gracious. In the midst of this emergency, all of the pieces of the puzzle worked so well together.


The fire happened on September 5th. We are still living in a hotel and have found a way to make it work. Some of our clothing and belongings are still at our house and we can access them when needed. The hotel has become home. Being in a smaller space has greatly shifted the way we relate to our belongings and having so much stuff. When you have to move from a two level, three-bedroom home to a small hotel suite, you have the opportunity to really think, “do I need this?” We were able to work on releasing our attachments to some of our belongings, mostly because they won’t fit in our hotel room. 


The road to repairing our home might be long, yet we are hopeful and thankful for the process. We may have lost a couple of pieces of furniture and some clothing, but the gratitude that we gained is immeasurable. 


Love, peace, light


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