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Kucharuk: The summer of fire and fear

From the desk of the green-eyed girl
A Green Eyed Girl

“Byeeeee” the sisters yell, tossing the words over sun-kissed shoulders with carefree innocence as they take off down the long driveway on their banana bikes. Where were they headed? They didn’t know for sure, but they knew they were not expected back home until dinner—the farm was their sandbox and they spent their summers exploring every inch of every acre.

This was my sister and I many years ago. Our summers were warm and carefree. The most stressful thought that would enter our mind during that blissful time would be how long it might take to ride our bikes over the thick gravel to town.

So. Much. Fun.

Lately, all I can think about is the spring that has been stolen from many children and the summer that will be spent either in a strange place after a sudden evacuation from a wildfire or spent close to home because an evacuation alert has been given.

It is the summer of fire and fear.

As I sit in my house this morning, I have few worries. I don’t have a “go bag” packed. My car is not fully fueled and at the ready, I haven’t created a full listing of my valuables and home contents. No, I am surfing Facebook and drinking coffee and writing this.

A mere one hundred plus kilometres away from me, families have spent the evening in a hotel or in their holiday trailer because they have been evacuated from their home due to the danger of wildfire. Their lives are in a state of flux and have been for weeks. It is as if their lives are one huge Jenga game and at any moment, it could collapse.

A few weeks ago, I volunteered at an emergency centre where evacuees came to register after they were forced from their family homes and property. I remember a family coming in and as they completed their paperwork, I asked the little boy who was probably eight or nine years old, “how are you doing?” and he said that he was a “little” scared. His mom heard him and with a big smile that belied her own fear and exhaustion said, “Should we go swimming tomorrow?” The little boy immediately perked up.

This is what I worry about. I worry about the children who say they are a “little” scared, I worry about the parents who will eventually begin to feel the emotional strain eat away at them and affect their marriage.

We are going to have a very long summer and this emotional roller coaster is going to continue. We must not become complacent in our empathy. That person who is frustrated at your store counter and perhaps is acting inappropriately? He or she might have been living in a campground with four kids all summer because they can’t go home. They might have lost everything and are stumbling in a fog because they don’t know yet what their next move will be. They might be at the end of their emotional rope.

Be curious, don’t be angry. Dig deeper, don’t assume. Be kind, it’s free.

Judy Kucharuk is a lover of sarcasm, witty people and footnotes. You can follow her blog at or catch her on CBC Radio Daybreak North where she shares her “Peace of Mind”. Follow her on twitter @judylaine