Tonight I watched a home in my neighborhood burn and was overcome with a sense of helplessness that brought tears to my eyes as I walked home. I arrived at the scene, which was marked by a huge, black smoke cloud, before the firefighters did. I heard explosions from the fully engulfed carport and watched beams collapse to the ground as dozens of neighbors and drivers stopped to witness the disaster. The gardener in me noticed the backyard trees in flames as the fire spread across the dry weeds on the property. It was a little surreal to see neighbors running to the scene while firefighters arrived and calmly walked about their business, which, incidentally, was to first put out the yard flames before the fire could spread to other homes.
The sense of tragedy for me was amplified by the fact that this home is only a few houses up the street from the home of the family in my ward who lost their wife and mother in a plane crash at Mt. Everest a week ago. Both incidents left me feeling deep sorrow for the families and completely at a loss for any help I could offer. My friend Mindy expressed my helplessness well when discussing our friend's passing: "How can my life be essentially unchanged when only a few yards away, their lives are forever altered?"
I do know the power of prayer and united faith. However, in the midst of witnessing tragedy, I don't know what I expect my prayers and faith to do. All I can think to ask of God is to comfort these families as they work through their losses, and to help me see any small need I can fill. I am reminded how blessed my own family is, and I don't want to take my blessings for granted. Life as any of us know it can all change in an instant.