Driving to work, irrelevant election signs remain steadfast at their posts, the sunlight an orange hue on the landscape from Woolsey and Hill fires. On social media, friends share stories of animals in need of rescuing in Malibu. Thousand Oaks and county residents remain in shock over fire and shots fired and lives vanquished in seconds. The city known as Paradise in Northern California burned to the ground with human fatalities growing. As thousands sift through the debris of what once was and memories of those who died, most people are still just trying to get to work on time to meet deadlines and complete assignments just to secure a little piece of the pie to make them feel safe, secure and empowered.

Heated conversations ensue over prevention tactics, both for mass shootings and wildfires. The solutions come to a head: for mass shootings, better mental health services, stricter punishment for wayward young men acting out aggression, more law enforcement, tighter gun control and condemning the NRA; for wildfire, abatement of dry and dead brush — the President’s insensitivity to loss of both homes and life is not surprising. These solutions, however, are nothing new. They surface every time after tragedies like these, but still, Ventura County is especially vulnerable.

The grief of sudden loss, be it tangible valuables, priceless photos and heirlooms or actual life, is pretty unbearable, almost toxic. There is no timeline for healing, no method for recovery that can guarantee a sense of normalcy, no amount of reassurance that this feeling of deep sorrow will ever truly abate, but in that sea of sadness encapsulated in fear, it is with each breath that we have hope.

Reflecting on the last week, coupled with the anniversary of the Thomas fire just weeks away, it’s impossible to deny the reality of how temporary everything is. From life to home to simple comfort, nothing is certain. It is, however, with compassion that we can embrace today, this moment and the future that hope can be realized. Tragedy shouldn’t be our only reason to come together as a community but it is the impetus for cultivating meaningful connections.

It is never too soon to seize the day, to enjoy your life, even in the midst of chaos and heartbreak. If we allow the sadness and fear to overcome our being, all is lost anyway. So why do we hope? Because it’s the only thing we have when the darkness feels inescapable. Moving forward, hope springs eternal and never lose sight of that.