The Stuff that Maybe Washed Away.

The cabin that has been in my family for over forty years sits in the small hamlet of Big Elk Meadows located between Lyons and Estes Park.  We got brief e-mails from neighbors on Thursday the 12th – “dams broke, things are really bad” and “pray for our safety” before we lost contact for a few days.  All you could do was pray, ponder, and prognosticate what was happening as it continued to rain.

The cabin is full of stuff and more stuff.  Forty years of accumulating family treasures – pictures of trophy fish, epic hikes, and memorable parties.  Shelves of puzzles, books, and picture albums enjoyed during quiet times.  Card games and board games including  the knockoff Monopoly game my daughter made to honor her grandparents and their real-estate legacy – “Tolleopoly”.  Then there is the other stuff.  “We don’t need this here anymore, let’s take it to the cabin”. A garage lined with bikes and life jackets that kids outgrew – awaiting the next generation of use.  A tangle of fishing poles in various states of repair. Dishware, housewares and outerwear converging from four families fill cabinets and closets. The stuff that, when left alone in dark places reproduces and you wonder where it all came from.

The first category of stuff embodies the ties that bind, our traditions, mores and morals.  We know that the values of family, friendship, faith, nature, fun, health, honor, loyalty, hard work, and resiliency that were nurtured over the years at the cabin cannot be swept away in a raging current even though the stuff could be.

Sometimes, we get caught up in the other types of stuff and forget about what should be a prerequisite for its acquisition. While it is not wrong to want to live better lives, surrounded by things that are meaningful and purposeful to us, the challenge lies in living a lifestyle that is presumed to be better yet is directed towards “HAVING” rather than “BEING”.

The call goes out for financial assistance, and people respond with compassionate hearts.  We can text REDCROSS to 90999, donate online, make a phone call, write a check, donate appreciated assets. In this catastrophe, and the next one around the corner, we need to be there for our families and neighbors.

One quandary I see in being able to give more is the burden of debt or other financial commitments people have.  Yes, the stuff!  The same stuff that gets burned up in fires, shoveled out of drenched basements or given away at our deaths is keeping us from our full financial philanthropic capacity, as well diminishing our freedoms for the future.

We watch the news and read the tweets as people start the recovery process. In every disaster, we hear the same thing “We are so grateful to be alive”; and “we have such generous neighbors”.  Yes, you may hear “we lost everything”, but it is rarely the focus as people are reunited with loved ones and communities rally to serve each other.

Let this time of challenge be an opportunity to question our consumption motives.  Do we want to create life-styles in which the quest for communion with others, beauty, goodness and other foundational values are the reflective factors for making a variety of financial choices?  What will it take to shift our perspectives?  What will be the result?

I have seen a YouTube video of a helicopter flight over Big Elk.  It is sad and very surreal to see water flowing through earthen dams and the dramatic change in topography.  The same night floods ravaged the Front Range, there was a magnificent rainbow over Basalt.  I know there are silver linings. Join me in changing the landscape of our financial decisions- creating something beautiful as we work together to rise from the rubble.

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