When I was 5 years old I set my house on fire

This story is absolutely true.

I was a very curious, and some would say active child. I don’t remember the kind of trouble I would get into, but I do remember one particular time when my mischief got way out of hand. One spring night in 1976 at our home in Fort Campbell, I awoke to curiosity and poor judgment telling me it would be a great idea to play with fire. So I snuck some thick orange Hanukkah candles from another room, used the stove’s pilot light to light them, and started lighting one candle then another, fascinated by the flames.

I was evidently unaware of the concept of fire safety or potential problematic consequences. Sure enough, a spark soon lit the living room couch which started to burn … a little. As the flames began to spread, I though I should probably put this fire out fast. (I believe my main concern was not getting in trouble.)

I calmly walked a few steps to the kitchen, filled the only container I could reach, a small Dixie cup, with water, then walked back to toss the 2 oz of water onto the spreading fire. That didn’t seem to have any effect, so I went back to the kitchen to look for a bucket under the sink, but I didn’t find one. This was not good news – and with no other options – I made the logical decision to go back to bed.

The next thing I remember is my older brother Ben waking us up – scream that the house was on fire! He had woken up to the smell of smoke and alerted everyone to get out in time. Thankfully, all of us escaped our burning house – but the building was badly damaged and we couldn’t move back in until a lot of work was done on the house and new furniture etc. could be purchased.

Aside from the foolish decision to play with fire while everyone was sleeping… analytical me thinks this:

My errors were:

  1. Not assessing the situation properly – I was worried about getting in trouble when the real fear should have been that I was coming dangerously close to killing myself and my entire family.
  2. Once I was in the situation I wrongly assessed the solutions available to me.
    I didn’t even consider getting help from someone else, for example.

It occurs to me that there are situations where we all act a little bit like that 5-year old.
We find ourselves in a difficult situation which poses a risk, but we misread the risk. We are not able to see it because we are blinded … perhaps by our inexperience, hubris, our being too close, or just a blind spot. And even when we do see the danger – we often incorrectly assess the possible solutions or the best solution.

In these situations it is important to consider despite what you believe –
The way to solve both of these issues is by figuring out WHO can help you?

WHO can help you understand the gravity of the situation?
And WHO can help you work toward a solution.

That’s when you need a friend to help – or to direct you to someone who can.