Compassion for the long haul

The thing about tragedies is that they tend to bring out either the best or the worst in people. Over the past week, we’ve seen reports of looting and scamming. It’s almost unfathomable, but opportunists slither in to take advantage of the situation. In the chaos, they target the vulnerable and weak.

And right now, unfortunately, there are tens of thousands of ragged and weary displaced Ridge residents upon whom to prey.

Thankfully, though, for those affected by the Camp Fire, the majority of the response both locally and nationally has been one of selflessness and generosity. We’ve seen it not only from the agencies we expect to react with compassion and care, such as the Salvation Army and Red Cross, but also from our neighbors without fancy titles or headquarters from which to organize.

The parking lot at Chico’s Walmart has turned into a makeshift donation and supply center—a space taken over by everyday folks with big hearts who are determined to provide immediate relief to their ailing neighbors. There, evacuees can pick up clothing and other necessities and eat a meal—all provided for free by strangers who are examples of the best of the human condition.

It’s a messy but beautiful reaction to the tragedy. And it’s just one of the many ways the community has stepped up in this time of crisis. Helpers have risen from all quarters of our communities—churches, City Hall, schools, businesses, nonprofit organizations, medical professionals, pet lovers, the list goes on—in the service of others without expecting anything in return. People have literally opened their homes to strangers.

We are heartened by all of the efforts, but we want to caution that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Butte County and its communities must look at the bigger picture, the long-range view of this disaster, and plan accordingly. Rebuilding won’t take weeks or months, but years.

As the metropolitan center of Butte County, Chico and its response is critical. The lives of thousands of people are counting on the continuation of the kindness displayed over the past week.

We’ve seen the partisan wall here break down among the general population, and we hope that trend continues. This is neither the time nor the place for political posturing and petty divisions. The hard work ahead requires collaboration, determination and healing. We must remember that.