The theme for Ripple the Recovery on November 30th, is a connected community flourishes. In such a big, heart-warming, heartbreaking, hope and fear-inducing moment; community is truly what matters most and what will get us through. For the last nine years Ripple the World has gathered and renewed our community and powered Daily Acts for the work ahead. We need to reconnect, renew and literally recreate the world around us. We hope you will join us.

We are living in this messy, painful and chaotic moment. But there is also immense beauty and an unleashed human spirit of generosity, hope and co-creation like I have never seen before.

There is deep concern about losing our most vulnerable populations, but everywhere I go, I am hearing a call to place equity at the center of our recovery and rebuild. While we can’t put our green dreams on the backs of the under-insured who lost homes, I am seeing and hearing agencies, organizations and individuals getting creative in how we can step up to help a timely rebuild while not sacrificing our needs and values for a healthy, just and sustainable recovery, and rebuild in a way that is climate resilient. And to be real, none of this is going to be easy, but with the resources, wisdom and vibrant community of engaged leaders we have in Sonoma County, if we can’t figure how to live our values, who can?

Last Monday amidst a flurry of activity, I was fortunate to pause on a sunny bench across from our office with Bob Stilger. In 2011, Bob landed in Japan a month after Fukushima and has spent much of the last 7 years working with Japanese communities after their devastating triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear explosions. His just-released book After Now is on lessons from working in the aftermath of Japan’s disaster. After our brief but insightful connection, I zoomed off into another week of meetings and forums, figuring how to best make sense of things and better coordinate efforts.

As Supervisor Lynda Hopkins spoke to at our Leadership Institute gathering last Thursday, this devastating crisis is not an opportunity it’s an imperative. It’s an imperative that we reinvent government, and the non-profit and business sectors for that matter, because none of us can do it alone. Deputy County Administrator and Fire Recovery Manager Peter Rumble spoke next. As a person working nearly around the clock with an unimaginably enormous and difficult job, Peter’s presence, his humility and unrelenting sense of service, spoke volumes. He gave an update on a range of initiatives, highlighting the concern for the high percentage of uninsured renters who lost homes in the fires. Building on this, Annie Dobbs-Kramer of North Bay Organizing Project passionately spoke to the alarming fact that since the fires, rents are up 36%. She went on to say “While the fires didn’t discriminate, the recovery will unless we center on justice. The eyes of the country are on us and we will be judged by how we treat our most vulnerable and our mother earth.” Annie reminded us all to think deeply about what values we are centering on and that social and environmental justice are two faces of the same value system.

It’s hard to get one’s head and heart around all that is needed and is happening, all the hopes and fears about what the future holds. From fire victims trying to sort through the ashes and stabilize life, to first and second responders still working day and night, to concerns about impacted low-income residents most at risk. Our business community and non-profit sectors are stretched and many folks are anxious and concerned but not knowing where or how to plug in. It’s a lot on a lot of levels.

As I write this I’m feeling a need in many others and myself for a break from the pressure, the rush, the incessant fullness of being so physically, mentally and emotionally occupied. While I can create a bit of space in my schedule, what is more within my power is how I carry all of these things. As I re-center on this insight, I feel my body relax and a peaceful calm come over me. To further feed this much-needed ease in my being, I lean forward in my chair to read a card on my shelf that I’ve often turned to over the years. It says PEACE. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. Suddenly I feel a brief respite from the urgency and concern that is as thick in the air as the hope and the love that replaced the smoke.

Of the many gatherings and conferences we’ve helped facilitate or spoken at in the last month, I’ve brought three things pretty consistently. The first is a collective breath. Thich Nat Hanh reminds us that our only worry should be to “sit skillfully in the present moment in order to skillfully take care of the future.” Breathing mindfully is the best way to get present. The second related point comes from the authors of Leading from the Emerging Future, who write “We cannot transform the behavior of systems unless we transform the quality of attention that people apply to their actions within those systems, both individually and collectively.” Lastly, echoing Supervisor Hopkins imperative to change how we do things, it’s recognizing that to build the collective leadership capacity to innovate and co-create at the scale of our whole community, we need all voices and key stakeholders at the table. Together we need to listen, learn and lean into the more healthy, just and resilient world seeking to be born out of this crisis.

This starts with each of us, practicing self-care to bring our best to our families, our communities and this big planetary moment. In those messy, stressful and fear-inducing instances of urgency that are so plentiful since the fires, can we remember to breathe, and in the midst of these things to stay calm in our hearts? Can we remember the wise advice of Philo of Alexandria who said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”?

To remember and reinforce our best selves and the power and potential of community, we must come together, to reconnect, re-center, revision and recreate our lives and communities. As Meg Wheatley wrote in the forward to Bob Stilger’s new book After Now, “We humans can get through anything as long as we’re together.” A connected community flourishes. We hope to see you there on November 30th.