It’s November and it’s getting darker earlier every day again! It’s that time of year when we have to adjust to the darkness and shorter days of which I’m not a fan, but thankfully, it doesn’t really last that long and every year we manage to adjust. I get in the mood to make soup and, like hibernating bears, many of us have that desire to retreat to our “caves”.

Elections are over and for now, we can take a breath before the next cycle begins. We celebrate Veterans Day and all those who serve or have served for our country. My father bravely and with purpose fought in World War II. It was a matter of pride and responsibility. Later, others went to war because they were sent – and their purpose was to survive and to protect their fellow soldiers -their own- not because they wanted to fight or believed in a war. Nonetheless, they bravely did what they had to do. They set an example with their passionate commitment and for doing the right thing. I’m so glad to finally see the increased focus on new housing and much needed support for our Veterans who give so much. It’s also the right thing to do.

There is a heaviness to my heart and I know to others as well. The smoke that is thick in the air now as we are trying to heal from just a year ago brings vivid memories flooding back, coupled with the incredible sadness for our neighboring communities who are now experiencing the terrifying fires and unbelievable losses. It’s going to be an incredibly hard season for those who are still waiting to find a place to call home and to those devastated by these current fires.

What can we do to help one another through this season and beyond?  How do we learn to cope and to make adjustments in our lives moving forward?  I believe that the positive actions we take now, ensures that the best kind of example is being set for our kids, now and for the next generations. The support and compassion that our community has shown for one another has been unsurpassed. It has taken courage and continuous strength to endure the challenges and constant changes of this last year. In the midst of all of the chaos, those left without a home, still had to face the day to day tasks of providing for their families and children and to make them feel safe through an extremely difficult period. Our support to each other will resonate for years to come. It also sets an example for our children and gives them valuable coping skills and tools for their own futures in a very positive way.

When I was working at St. Joseph Health, a part of our mission was (is) to treat everyone with dignity and respect. In a recent interview, I heard Michele Obama use the same phrase. It sounds so simple and could serve as a mantra now. Being kinder and nicer to one another is contagious and sets an example for our kids and all of us to follow.

It’s the start of the holiday season. What if we all give one another the gift of kindness and respect? It costs nothing, and the rewards can be priceless and have impact on how we approach life and continue to recover and rebuild our community. When we smile at a stranger or open a door for someone, the effect can be profound. A simple act of kindness not only makes someone else feel better, it comes back tenfold and boosts our own hearts too. And what if your child or grandchild saw you doing something for a stranger for no reason, who might just be in need of some kindness? As kids, how often did we hear “Lead by example”?

There are some positive things going on that we, as a community should be proud of. I am determined to recognize and even honor, our heavy hearts and yet look for the new sprouts of growth and life that are cropping up all around us. The emerging of new homes all around us is more evident every day and it’s wonderful to hear another friend share the excitement of moving in to their own home. There are many people still hurting right now – let’s do what should come naturally – offer support with kindness & respect.  Let’s enter this season with compassion and empathy – I think it will be worth it.

May you find those things all around you, no matter how small, to be thankful for and let’s celebrate us Sonoma County!