One year, just after Christmas, our house caught on fire. Our then preschool-aged son turned on the stove that we thought was broken and had tucked away in the basement. As its burners heated up, so did the box of photos I had set atop them months before. It was this box—all of our family's memories—that ignited the entire basement. My sons, then 3, 4, and 7, and I fled across the street to the safety of our neighbor's home. From her living room we watched as smoke billowed from the windows while firefighters worked to douse the flames. Life as we knew it ended that day.
With virtually all of our material possessions destroyed and damaged (my neighbor literally gave me the coat off her back), we checked into a hotel. At dinner that first night, my husband looked at each one of us. With a catch in his voice, he said, "Everything I ever needed, I still have around this table."
In that moment, I understood what it means to be thankful in all circumstances.
Two weeks later, we moved into a fully-furnished apartment with a short-term lease. All we brought with us—our family of five—was a laundry basket of clothes.
The boys promptly kicked off their shoes and proceeded to run through the apartment, exploring every new nook and cranny. In their bedroom, they discovered three beds lined up in a row. On each one, sat a brand new stuffed animal. The owners of the building knew our boys had lost every toy—even all of the new ones they had just received for Christmas.1