One of my children, who shall henceforth be referred to as ‘Sparky, recently ignited a small brush-fire in our yard.  He did not intend to do it.  He was using a flint and steel device when some dry broom-straw ignited and spread like, well, wild fire.

Sparky loves fire; always has.  But then, most boys do.  Fire represents power and danger and mystery.  What’s not to love?  Give a boy a fire and a stick and he’ll spend hours poking the fire, making smoke, smothering the fire and re-igniting it.   And also wondering, in the deep recesses of his mind, what would make the fire explosive, what material would make it more dangerous.

This time, however, Sparky met his match.  Sparky, who had recently begged for a lighter, ran inside yelling, ‘help!  Help!  Fire!’

Of note, he was also saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m really sorry!  Take my fire-starter away!’  (And to his mother, ‘Papa said I could!’  A statement which was only partially true…)

Sometimes, the best lessons (in life, in parenting, in medicine) come from near disasters.  From the times when, through our pride, our carelessness, our reckless risk-taking, our simple, unfettered sense of adventure, we make grave, dangerous errors.

Given that we live in the woods, and that our water-hose couldn’t effectively reach the fire, we formed a family bucket-brigade, dipping containers in the pool and filling them with the hose.  We used coolers, ice-buckets, mop-buckets and whatever we could find.

In no time, the fire was out.  Our heart-rates settled down and life was normal.  The cats were a little stunned by the whole affair,  but the dogs weren’t the least bit surprised, having seen more bizarre things in the past.

I was initially angry, but soon let it go.  First, Sparky’s mother (aka, my wife Jan) has a history remarkable for two (count ’em two) forest fires which she started whilst trying to burn brush-piles, both of which required the fire department.  Genetics is a powerful force.  Depending on how one views nature vs. nurture, it’s possible that Sparky couldn’t  help himself.

Second, and absolutely true (where as the first point was more for comic relief) there was no better lesson he could ever have learned than by watching how quickly, how aggressively and how uncontrollably his fire traveled across the grass and almost into the pines and undergrowth.

My sense is,  Sparky learned his lesson.

We should all be so wise as to learn, really learn, from our near-disasters.  And give thanks to God for the wisdom they bring.


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