Sparks and Roaring Fires

Wind whipped branches into a frenzy and flung their few leaves to the ground. It was a wicked evening — the chill seeping through the glass of windows and french doors and sending me off in search of my sweater.

Before long my husband lit a match and started a fire in the fireplace. As the flames leapt from around the wood with a cheerful crackle, I instantly felt warmer. The room’s temperature couldn’t have changed in those few moments, but the flames’ impact was immediate. The apparent coziness chased away the chill.

During the evening, I stared into the flames, slightly hypnotized (is ‘slightly’ even possible?), and recalled summer evenings at our cabin when the air was still heavy with leftover daytime heat, and yet we dragged lawn chairs from the cabin’s deck down to the lakeshore to sit circled around a campfire. Toasting sticks appeared for weiners and marshmallows, and the little ones clamoured for ‘Smores. We shared a different kind of warmth in that family time together, and made memories to treasure.

Not long before that, the airtight heater in the kitchen of the little cabin was relocated to accommodate a new-to-us cookstove. Oh, the rejoicing when the fire was laid and the pan came out to create our very first cookstove meal. The men took turns poking the lengths of wood into a glowing heap as the cheese melted into gooey goodness and the bread turned golden brown. Yes, it was only grilled cheese sandwiches, but after 37 years without a real kitchen stove in the cabin, it was a momentous occasion.

Last time we were at the cabin, our first few days were spent in choking smoke from a forest fire. It wasn’t all that close to us so we weren’t in any real danger from it, but the smoke that obscured our usual view was part of a raging inferno elsewhere, destroying everything in its path.

I was working on this post, thinking about these various fires, when an e-mail arrived with a video about a “random act of culture” presented last month by the Philadelphia Opera Company in a Macy’s store. As I watched it I reflected on how this random act, like a tiny spark, had the potential for massive impact.

Such moments of unanticipated beauty, or perhaps the gift of a helping hand, a smile and word of encouragement, even the stories we so carefully craft with characters who live, fail, trust and overcome, may have unexpected impact on the lives of others. We may never know about it, but if we ignite the sparks, we allow God an opportunity to fan flames to provide light and warmth for those who may be in great need.

Have you ever given one of your characters the opportunity to do some small act of kindness, helpfulness or generosity? What difference did the gesture make?

Here’s the video I mentioned. I hope you have time to watch it.