As an evacuee from Fort McMurray I have had a plethora of blessings showered upon me, more blessings than I can count, both large and small. As we took flight from Fort Mac my cell phone was in constant use. Text messages from friends and family checking to make sure we were safe and offering love, support, and financial help. I was also using social media to get the word out that we were safe so family members and friends across the country would not worry. The messages we were receiving in return buoyed us up and helped tremendously. I know people felt helpless but they will never know what a boost to our spirits their frequent messages of love and support meant to us. Even chatting with other evacuees en route helped. As we exchanged stories of where we lived in the city and our experiences getting out helped create solidarity.
Then there were the people standing along the highway holding signs that offered everything from food and water to free campgrounds, free gas, and much, much more helped so much – whether we needed to take advantage of these kind offers or not.
When we stopped for a bathroom break and to refuel the truck young people approached us handing out flyers to evacuees that listed places where we could stay and depots where water and other essentials were being given out – this within 24 hours of fleeing the wildfires! I cannot begin to describe the many instances of kindness or the depth of love and compassion on display everywhere.
We have faced challenges in life prior to the wildfire; times when we could not find work; times of great difficulty and sheer desperation. This was different. This brought home how fragile life can be and how it can change in an instant. But it also brought great hope and a deeper appreciation for the innate goodness of human beings. Virtual strangers opened their summer home for us “for the duration; for as long as you need it”! Donation depots overflowing with everything a body might need – and if they didn’t have a particular item word quickly got out and that item was found….it has been an awesome and humbling experience. The questions often asked are: “What do you need?” and “How can we help?”
I don’t know if I will live long enough to express my gratitude for all the kindnesses bestowed on me and my family or find words to express how full my heart is. And pride; pride in my countrymen and pride in my community. As long as I breathe I will search for ways to pay it forward…as long as I live I will treasure the memories forged through the fire.