There was a calmness within me as I stood only meters from a burning building in a small barangay where I was staying in the Philippines. I followed the crowd after hearing a huge explosion to find people running through very narrow streets, yelling, crying, and carrying loads of household items in the other direction from the commotion. Every government, search and rescue, and police department turned up only moments later and while black smoke was billowing out of buildings and stinging our eyes, it was inspiring to see community members doing what they could to help their fellow neighbors.
During the event, I was already wondering about the aftermath. Once all the commotion dies down and the spectators walk away, the people whose houses were affected are left behind, still standing on the street with tears in their eyes and anxiety in their hearts. The rest of us go back to our safety, gulp down water, sit down, and discuss the event on our sofas. Meanwhile, down the road, an elderly lady is holding onto her dog and the little boy is still carrying around the big sack of clothes his mother ordered him to drag somewhere safe.
We can all assume that their loved ones will come to their aid and support them with temporary accommodation, food, and finances. But do we ever stop to consider what it was that these people felt was really important to save? What was in the mind of the young woman I saw standing on the tin overhang of her place, throwing items down to whoever was there to catch them while the next house was burning up in flames. What material things do people deem of such important value that they would be that close to danger in order to save it?
I have no idea as to what one individual thinks at the precise moment of panic; however, the two chickens that the elderly man was clinging to and the enormous framed picture that the woman was holding close to her chest certainly made for some interesting choices. Life is surprises, impermanence, and events that make you look within and consider what you truly value. At first, I couldn’t even answer my own question? What is of value to me? What would I be throwing down on the street that was so valuable, I would risk my life for it? Simple answer – nothing. Nothing material, anyway.
I know I value the environment. I value the planet. And I value the beings on it. The steps I take are to do the things that I believe will help protect Mother Earth. Yes, I am one. But I am one of many who value our lives and that of the next generation and that of the next. Which is why I write this. To reiterate that a fire can destroy property, burn it down to its bare floor. And absolutely nothing can be done about it. Except that it would make sense to put things in place to prevent such a calamity in the first place. Responsibility for all to participate in.
This is the same for pollution and plastic waste and all the things that humans do which destroy our Earth. Rather than wait until the point of no return, where our environment gets completely destroyed, to then decide to do something, let’s seek prevention. Again, we are all responsible, we are all in need of making the world a better place to live in and to be able to offer that to our sons and daughters and whoever else is being born into this world. What difference can I make, you may ask? You can make a big difference, you can make an impact. You just have to take action.