“Hope for a Corner of the World,” July 30, 2018

Hope sometimes comes to us in unexpected ways, often from the hands of a child. A month ago, after 12 years in Las Vegas, my husband and I moved back to California, to be closer to our growing family. We are slowly resettling in the house where my children grew up. But recently, I flew back to Vegas, to take care of a few loose ends.

When I left Monterey, it was 68 degrees; when I landed in Vegas, my rental car claimed it was 118. I believed it. I spent the week running from AC to AC. Finally, when I had tied up most of the loose ends, I headed back to the airport.  Waiting to board the flight to Monterey, I checked the news for the latest on the California wildfires. It wasn’t good. And it was getting worse.

I’d been concerned for days about fires near Yosemite. But that was the first I’d heard about an inferno threatening Redding. I took the news personally. For years, the Record Searchlight has carried my column. I often hear from its readers. I’ve never lived in the area, but I’ve visited for speaking engagements and always felt “right at home.”

Tragedy knows no boundaries. We don’t need to live in a town to share in its suffering and pray for the deliverance of its people.

I immediately emailed a dear friend who lives in Redding, to say I was praying for her and her family and her neighbors. Hours later, I was home when she finally replied. As of that evening, she said, their home was still standing. But many, or perhaps most, of the houses in their subdivision were gone. Winds were expected to pick up overnight. And they were told it would be at least a week before they could return home.

I read her note twice, every word, all that she said and did not say. Then I took a long look around my house, at all the things that make it our home — the keepsakes, the treasures, the family photos, the priceless memories framed by its walls. I couldn’t imagine how it would feel to see it in ashes. And the thought of losing “things” was nothing compared to the horror of losing loved ones.

Lucky for me, the next day, my grandson came over while his mom ran errands. Henry is 6, and marvelously distracting. We went out to lunch, drove by the beach and stopped in a shop that sells dinosaur puppets and rubber sharks with legs poking out of their mouths.

All the while, in bits and pieces, my heart and prayers kept circling back to Redding.

We came home and I made dinner while Hen played a video game with my husband. My daughter came back from her errands and we all ate pasta and shrimp. Her husband was working late. So she and Henry decided to spend the night.

At bedtime, I let Henry pick a book. He chose a favorite, his and mine, a small package of hope, and handed it to me.

“Life” by Cynthia Rylant is, I promise, the perfect book to share with a child, or to read to yourself when you need to be reminded of why we are here. Rylant is both a poet and a wonder. And Brendan Wenzel’s illustrations are glorious.

Henry knows that book by heart. So we read it aloud together:

“Life begins small. Even for elephants. Then it grows.”

We turned the pages slowly, one by one, to my favorite part:

“Remember this: in every corner of the world, there is something to love. And something to protect.”

That’s the part where Henry always looks at me and grins.

At the end, we closed the book and nodded at each other. Then I tucked Henry and his mama into bed in the room where she slept when she was his age.

Before I fell asleep, I felt my heart and my prayers reach out once again to my friend and all her neighbors in a lovely corner of the world called Redding.

The world is a big place. And the ocean is wide. And we are all in this tiny boat together.



  1. Maria Morris says

    I live in Lewiston west of Redding and was also evacuated from the Carr fire. My 83 year old mom was visiting and my 95 year old father in law lives next door. My husband and I made it out with our parents and were blessed to come back to our home. In that moment of panic nothing in the house was important…we had years of memories and love in our parents, age was not a factor…life was. Thank you for keeping our beautiful Northsate in your thoughts…we have a long journey ahead of us. Just as these mountains will heal, so will we.

  2. Marsha Lloyd says

    Just wanted to say how much I appreciate and look forward to your column each Sunday. I’m not a newspaper reader but my husband always saves your page for me. Wasn’t aware of the fires in Redding but will say a prayer for all involved. Many thanks for mentioning the book by Cynthia Rylant. I will be checking the library for it. That led me to another one of hers- Every Living Thing- A must order from Amazon. I love finding new books to share with my grandchildren.

  3. Marcia Struble says

    I just finished reading this in the Record Searchlight and had to search for your site to say “Thank you for your thoughts and prayers”. My extended family live in Redding and the city of Shasta Lake. I live in the Bay Area but visit often. When I visit I always look forward to reading the Sunday paper and save your article for last. Since June I have been staying with my father because of his health. We evacuated to my brothers house on the east side and thankfully we are all safe. Unfortunately one of my sisters lost her home. This mornings paper and coffee was especially delightful!

  4. rita henke says

    beautiful , It is so thoughtful of you to write about this horrible fire. My son and his family live in Redding, they are safe and lucky to still have their home. He actually works at Whiskeytown where the fire started, as law enforcement with the NPS. I have never been so worried in my life, and have said so many prayers for all of those affected by this tragic fire. I look forward to your column and read it every week online (our local paper, Evansville Indiana does not carry it anymore.) Again, thank you for thinking and praying for all involved , Sincerely Rita

  5. Rebecca Linggi says

    Sharon, thank you for your kind words. It is Friday evening a week ago yesterday that monster roared through my beautiful community and iam still shocked. I’m fortunate , we’re fine. So many are not, but this town has rallied together ! So much has been lost. Almost all of Whiskeytown lake is burnt, but the people of Shasta county are coming together and helping each other. Ashes are still falling today, people ae wearing face masks because the air quality is beyond hazardous . So much support has been given to our firefighters law enforcement and all the emergency personnel they are true heroes! Redding has a lot to deal with, it will be years before we are back to “normal”. But we are strong!

  6. Alison Wathey says

    Thank you, Sharon for the lovely column for Redding. I have always been a doer. It’s so frustrating that I have to sit here and not be able to help out at all, besides praying (although that’s a large component of helping). I’ve lost my house in a different fire, in Shasta County, and I KNOW what these people are going through. I remember not wanting to be called “a victim “ rather be called a survivor. Just as I want to be called (and be) a survivor now! I’m fighting breast cancer, with Chemotherapy looming up in 10 days. I have many appointments, get ready for this so therefore I can’t be in the thick of things helping out. BUT, this community has come together in so many wonderful, loving ways that brings tears every day (several times a day)! No amount of thanks and appreciation can be expressed to those men, women, and even children that are fighting this monster fire. WE ARE SHASTA STRONG!!!

  7. Kate Sciacca says

    Just saw over a thousand homes lost in Redding thus far. Smoke in northern NV is thick from all the fires in CA and a few here. I cannot imagine the heartbreak of losing everything- prayers especially for those who lost that which cannot be replaced… friends and family.

  8. Rena C Streetman says

    Beautiful story as always. When I was in college our house burned to the ground. I had just been married for about 10 months. I had done all my Christmas shopping early since exams were upon me. The next day at college, I went to all my classes and my story was told to each classmate. The Dean had informed all my professors. I would take all the exams, but they would not make any of my grades lower. I Made The Honor Roll that semester. lol

  9. All the world is not safe but most part of it is safe only due to one reason that it is full of good people like Sharon who not only cares but inspires others to pray for all. Thank you for letting us know. Praying for safe California !! Every year draughts and wild fires destroy so much. Praying!!

  10. Polly Caudle says

    Thank you for those beautiful words, I am praying for those people in California that are dealing with the fires.

  11. Sarah Webster says

    Another thought-provoking column. Prayers for all those in Redding and other area with fires.
    I haven’t seen your columns lately so I’m glad to know you are back on the cool coast.

  12. Reba Underhill says

    Sharon I love to read your words they make me think and remember. Family has always been so important to me too . I’m not getting to see your column any more . I don’t know why and I miss it very much. Praying. for your family and all those who might be affected by the wild fires out there.

  13. Linda Hill says

    You reminded me today that there is always hope. I will also pray for California today.
    Thank you for your inspirational words.

  14. Robin Brown says

    Beautiful! Your words always touch my heart.

  15. Patti Peters says

    Sharon your beautiful words have long made me think. Thank you for every one! Enjoy every moment with your precious family.

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