Wildfires Ignite a New Passion

Wildfires Ignite a New Passion

BY LEANN DILBECK –

The intrinsic desires of a mother crosses borders, cultures, and societies. We love our children unconditionally. When they hurt, we hurt. When they rejoice, we rejoice. Our desire to protect goes beyond a grizzly bears ferocity and our desire to guide them to be compassionate, loving, intelligent, tolerant, and productive humans is part of our life’s mission… at least for this momma.

I was new to the Stars of HOPE team and was being activated on my first deployment to the burn zone in the Sonoma Valley of California. California had never really been on my radar for a destination to visit. Impressed by the beauty of the region in magazine ads or commercials, I certainly was, but as I embarked on my first Stars of HOPE deployment in the field, I would soon learn that California held a distinct, unexpected revelation for me and a commonality that captured this Arkansans heart.

Most of my career up to this point has been in west central Arkansas. My resume will tell you that I am an entrepreneur, public relations, marketer, communications specialist, and journalist by education and experience BUT what it won’t convey is who I am at the core of my being… a wife and a mother.

I expected my main role in my deployment to California to be as another set of hands for the painting event that involved almost 1,000 children. I’m very much a ‘people person’ but didn’t expect to have much to contribute in visiting with these families, that I considered, to be far different than this self-proclaimed ‘country girl.’ I mean, I had spent my life in a small rural Arkansas town at the foot of the Ouachita Mountains, what could I possibly offer California families who had survived the unthinkable?

It was simple.

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I listened.

I cared.

I encouraged.

I was there…

I was there during a difficult journey with the sole purpose of letting them know that a mom in rural Arkansas cared and wanted to be a source of support by showing love and respect, and maybe a few hugs, too.

The commonality was just as simple. I was not just there as an Arkansan but as a mother who identified and felt deep compassion when they shared their stories of frantically packing and ripping children out of their slumber at 3 a.m., making harrowing escapes from flames that jumped a canyon and lit their mountain and neighborhoods ablaze.

I grieved for them as they shared stories of their children’s cries for pets that didn’t escape… their children’s endless questions of where they would live, where would they go to school, and why, why, why… I hurt for them… because as mothers, we share a common unconditional, unceasing love and need to comfort our children, whatever the zip code. It’s that simple.

I was able to share encouraging stories with them and their children of our town’s experience with Stars of HOPE in 2010 and of our town’s rebirth following a devastating EF3 tornado on April 7, 2009.  That’s the power of the Stars of HOPE program of the New York Says Thank You Foundation, transforming tragedy into hope. In the power of the human connection we find that we are all more alike than different in a world in desperate need of hope.

Even though I had traveled to California to give, I was also receiving. Standing in the charred landscape, I found that, in fact, the California wildfires had ignited a new passion within me. I look forward to blogging about this new adventure and from hearing from amazing moms across the globe share about their Stars of HOPE.

Have a Stars of HOPE moment you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Email me at LeAnn@StarsofHOPEUSA.org.

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