“Fire”…The Four Letter “F” Word

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jessica-1.jpgIt evokes different images for each person that hears it: It warms, protects, fuels, provides, and sometimes it devours. It’s the four letter “f” word, fire. It can only start if many different chemical elements and states are in place, if the air movement is right and there is the perfect reaction of elements. Of its own accord, it often starts in the most unlikely of places, but once it is properly ignited, it can become a powerful, destructive force to be reckoned with.Jessica’s family didn’t dream that when they all left for school and work that morning that their lives would never be the same. But it happened without their permission, and it was insatiable. By the time they were notified, it was too late – they could only stand there in shock as they watched their family’s home be consumed by the flames. Each room, each member’s personal belongings, and all of their family’s material memories were lost in the heat and smoke. It seemed like too much to comprehend, and yet they were left with no choice but to move on. That night, as she was getting into bed at a family member’s house, Jessica took an inventory of all of her worldly possessions on the floor beside her: donated clothes, shoes, and toiletries.jessica-2.jpgFor the next while she was plagued with guilt, as she found out the fire was believed to have started in the electrical wiring in her bedroom. Oddly enough, numerous reassurances from family and friends didn’t seem to change how she felt: responsible that she hadn’t realized it before it was too late. A few weeks later, LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) came to Jessica’s school. As she sat in the audience and listened to team members’ stories, she was inspired to think outside of herself, and she signed up for Hero Holiday. Her family and friends got behind her and helped her with her fundraising and that summer Jessica joined hundreds of other participants in the Dominican Republic. She was never the same.When Jessica returned home, she was not only changed, she was empowered. She knew that her family had experienced a horrible trauma that few would understand, and she knew that she could take that experience and decide one of two things: to dwell on it and turtle from life, or to recognize the opportunity that lies in the loss. She chose the opportunity. Jessica began to get involved in her community, continued to stay connected with her Hero Holiday network of friends, and continued to challenge and inspire people in her hometown to make a difference where they were at. And this past September, Jessica joined our LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) School of Leadership and headed off to Mexico for the first half of her year.It was this past November that everything came full circle in her life. As she joined the other students in building a house for a family, she realized that she wasn’t so different from them. The family that they built for had been living in a cardboard and tin shack, with only basic cooking utensils, blankets, a worn out mattress and minimal clothes. As they were presented with the keys to their new house that they worked alongside of Jessica and the other students to build, they were in awe of what they were now in possession of. They had a real home, and jessicas-3.jpgtheir family was safe, warm and together. They had all that they could have ever dreamed of, and Jessica, the girl who had known what it was to go without for a long time, was one of the team members to hand over the keys. As she looked in their eyes, she understood, perhaps better than anyone else there, the power of knowing that people around you believe in you and in your future as a family, because she had stood in their shoes.This semester, Jessica is touring with our road teams, and she is sharing her story with tens of thousands of high school students across the nation. Life is about choosing who you become, despite what becomes of your life. She gets it and she is living it out every day.To find out more about LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) and our high school presentations, our Hero Holiday programs, or our School of Leadership, check out

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 25th, 2011