Letter: So many people put themselves on the line

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Dear Editor,

As the fires destroy, devour, and incinerate whole communities in California, as the Reel Deal shows “Only the Brave,” the story about the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew that saved the Valles Caldera Cabin District just weeks before those firefighters went off to die in Arizona, I remember our own Los Alamos firefighters who were first on the line as they teamed with other crews from around the country to save our town during the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire.
When I was young I fought fire with the Forest Service out of South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Those were the days before the holocaust fires of today. Still, the work was long, hard, dangerous, and exhausting. But I never risked my life.
When I think of the people on the line in California right now — all those standing against the towering infernos spawned by the marriage of poor forest management practices and climate change — I am humbled and in awe.
When America talks about all the first responders, we gratefully acknowledge their willingness to risk their own lives for that of another. As the firefighters in California, as our own first responders in Los Alamos, these people have become the paradigm of Heart, Courage, and a self-sacrificing Community Spirit.
Another profound truth, however, is that living your life in service of others is also powerful.
At this moment in history, it is not only astonishing, but an immeasurable blessing that so many humans still maintain the sacred instinct to sacrifice self interest for the wellbeing of another.
Just as right now we’re watching that instinct to serve in response to the ceaseless progression of worldwide disasters.
Here in Los Alamos, small heroic acts daily sustain our community. Firefighters responding to medical emergencies, or simply helping people get out of the bathtub, Smith’s employees accompanying vulnerable shoppers to their cars at night, teachers struggling against youthful apathy and personal devices to educate our kids, business people hanging-in-there to provide goods and services locally, healthcare workers who can’t afford to live here but who commute every day to take care of our elders, county workers who keep the garbage collected, utilities on, facilities clean, streets patched, recreation abundant, while attempting to meet the constant demands of our community.
These we thank. All these people who serve the community. Each day we can notice and be grateful for every small, individual commitment of grace and kindness. It’s a choice for goodness that nobody is required to undertake.
And today, with the California fires, I especially want to remember and recognize our own firefighters, and our police and all the first responders who stay when the rest of us leave.
And who come when we need them.
Just how do we express how grateful we are for all you do? I don’t know. But you are each of great value.
Thanks. All of you. Thank you.

Jody Benson
Los Alamos