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Today I felt the best and most hopeful part of human nature, a sorely needed reassurance in these trying times. It was an honor, even for this atheist, to help dig out the waist-high mud from the Chapel of the Immaculate Heart at La Casa de Maria.

Enormous river boulders, a hundred-million years old, had crashed through the upper wall and piled against the lower wall, the chapel being just the briefest waypoint along their journey of eons. The irony of their timelessness was not lost on me in this place where we seek to reaffirm our own meaningfulness and immortality.

But still the chapel stands, and with the hands, sweat, and muscles of dozens of volunteers, it may yet live on to give comfort, peace, and hope to future generations.

My own journey over the last few years has been a struggle with ephemerality. I moved on from Montecito just a few months ago, happily to move in with my fiancé Colleen, and to lean into future chapters rather than cling to those prior. Yet, the roots I’d grown over those twelve years in Montecito still run deep, and when tragedy struck, my heart couldn’t ignore or be detached.

As John Abraham Powell eloquently kicked off this morning — “Helping hands heal the helpers as much as they do the helped.” — I’m grateful for the opportunity to have served today, and for the leadership (whom I’m proud to call my friends) of the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade.

The chapel looked beautiful by the end of the day.