Compassion: California Style

>     There are probably almost as many jokes about California as there are about lawyers. As a former practicing attorney, I can tell you that many of the one’s about my profession are earned, or at least warranted.
    As for California…we may have to reassess.
    The devastating wildfires ravaging the State this week bring to light a new perspective on what is characteristically seen as the “flakiness” and “Kumbaya” spirit of people who are born or choose to move there. And while it may be true that personal relationships are typically not of the same depth as those formed elsewhere in the country, it is also true that there is something rather remarkable to be learned from Californians as well.
    Qaulcomm Stadium in Southern California has been turned into a refuge for individuals and families displaced by the danger and destruction of the wildfires. It has also, apparently, become a shining example of what compassion and caring look like. It is vintage California and deserves a second look.
    I had my own experience with compassion California style many years ago and the memory has never left me. I had moved to Los Angeles to start law school. The week of my move was also the week of my birthday. I literally knew no one in the city. On the third day, which also happened to be my birthday, I went shopping for some things I needed for my apartment. While in a furniture store, I happened to mention to the person I was speaking with that I had just arrived and it was my birthday. What occurred next defies the imagination, but it happened to me…so I can tell you that it’s true.
    Within minutes, the owners of the store closed the store, ordered pizza, went out a bought a cake, and threw me a birthday party! Now it may not have been sound business practice, but I can tell you in their single act of caring those strangers made a transplanted, lonely young woman feel important, and yes, loved.
    When Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, the world watched as civil services and public officials failed to fulfill their intended purpose, chaos and looting broke out, and the stadium where people were housed was both unsanitary and unsafe.
    In California, civil services and civil servants alike have been visible and hard at their jobs since the fires began. At Qualcomm Stadium, there are stilt walkers and massage therapists and cooks and suppliers and every possible category of volunteerism imaginable. There is compassion…California style…on display for all to see.
    There is also a woman at Qualcomm who lost her home to bank foreclosure a month ago who is greeting every new arrival at the stadium with a hug. She says she knows the trauma of losing everything you have and she just wants to give back what she can.   
    I recently read that human beings need 8-12 hugs a day for emotional and physical health. I don’ know where you live or if you’ll get your requisite 8-12 hugs today. But just in case your short, I know where you can get one.
    Perhaps we need a few less jokes about Californians and a few more lessons learned.

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