Turning Sadness Into Strength: Shereley Smith’s Story

Northwest  |  May 17, 2019

One day, Camp Fire survivor Shereley Smith told our volunteers that she has a cute granddaughter, and then shared a photo. We told Smith, “Your granddaughter looks the same as you.”

When the disastrous Camp Fire ignited Paradise City, “my house and everything else was destroyed,” Smith said. We then considerately asked, “How is your family?”

“We are good and safe,” she explained. “I am doing meditation in Chico with a Buddhism Master learning Buddhism philosophy.” She is learning how to forget the past and to live in the present.

Indeed, it is important that we need to appreciate the present moment and live better since the past will never come back. Soon, it will become a mere memory.

I then asked her, “Do you know the Redding Carr Fire? ” She said she had heard of it, so I shared the story of Redding Carr Fire survivor Edie.

The old man Edie had visited Tzu Chi and told us his story of losing his family while going to the grocery store to purchase aid relief supplies during the fire. As the fire was burning from across the river, he was at the store buying supplies. Soon his granddaughter made an urgent phone call. On the phone, his granddaughter said, “Grandpa, grandpa, our house is on fire!”

Unfortunately, when Edie returned to the house, his wife and his granddaughter had already died in the fire. His granddaughter’s call were the last words he heard from them. Smith cried while listening to Edie’s story, and we hugged her tightly; we handed her a napkin to wipe away her tears.

But Edie’s story didn’t end there. “It is impressive that just with the mission to help the victims, he drove almost six hours to bring blankets and first aid money to help them get through the most difficult time. He decided to turn sadness into strength, and an organization was also set up to help the victims.

Thanks to their encouragement, Edie decided to find a group that helps local disaster survivors work together with Tzu Chi.

“Life is impermanent. We should cherish what we have,” I said.

Smith agreed with this and told us that she would like to be a volunteer if we needed her. Before leaving, she left her contact information. We hope to see her soon and work together for disaster relief.

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