Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

St. John Tradewinds,

Several weeks ago my cottage caught on fire when I apparently left the electric coffee maker on while I went to St. Thomas.

I returned, just as my neighbor, who had called in the fire was running down the hill for help, and soon after the Fire Service people arrived to put out the fire. Fortunately, the flames were limited to the kitchen area, and were soon put out. The larger trauma for me was dealing with a lot of greasy soot and smoke damage to every wall, ceiling, floor and surface.

I lost things….but herein lies the title of my letter. Things are that — just “things.” I feel I was extremely lucky to not have lost the entire wooden cottage. For me, it was a wake-up call to begin accommodating the slow shift to “senior citizen” and actually do a mental checklist before leaving home.

The larger lesson, the gift I was given, was to be reminded of the truer values in life…family, friends, neighbors, a sense of community and caring and watching out for each other. If you are like me, you are always going to thank that person, or tell another how much you love or appreciate them, or take some time out of your schedule to help or visit someone…but our good intentions seem to get put off in favor of other hectic modern day commitments.

With all the recent changes to St. John I was whining a lot about the loss of the “old way”…but it’s still there! Everyone rallied round, contributed how or what they could from physical labor to meals to donations of money and cleaning supplies, and everyone kept checking in on me, and coming ‘round or phoning and it kept me from slipping down into the dark side and moving forward instead with each step a healing one, no matter how tiny.

Thanks so much to my neighbor, who called in the fire at the first suspicion of a problem and then checked the cottage to make sure pets weren’t trapped. Every second counts.

Thanks too to Firefighters Corporal Julio Francis and Larry Clark who put out the fire. And to the Coral Bay Fire Station, a public apology for my previous Letter to the Editor, in which I was very critical of response to an earlier fire just up hill from me.

As unused to as we are to fire on the island, I now feel that one just caught us off guard, but a lot of lessons were learned from it. I see more house numbers visible from the road; hopefully folks are naming roads and leaving specific directions for tourists who may be staying and have to phone an emergency in.

I also learned I need a big sized fire extinguisher — not the little one suitable only for a small frying pan fire — and I should know how to use it.

And of course, thanks so much to all my neighbors and friends who have rallied around me to clean up the mess and put my house and life back together.

So wake up, smell the coffee and realize each day is precious and a gift. Things can change in an instant. Cultivate those friends and neighbors, tell those family members you love them, and reach out to estranged ones. Don’t be afraid to eat crow and apologize if you were too hasty off the mark…the Coral Bay firemen were certainly heroes to me!

Have the neighbor over for coffee, or your mother-in-law for a cup of tea, or connect over a wine or beer with your friends you’ve been meaning to spend some time with. These are the precious things in life and the old timers knew that and worked it into their community. Its here still. And that’s why I love St. John and St. Johnians.

Judth Kane