A Doug's Life: Keeping the Faith in the Face of Tragedy

Tragedy touched our lives last week, both here and afar. I didn't know Phyllis Fleming, a resi...

Tragedy touched our lives last week, both here and afar.

I didn't know Phyllis Fleming, a resident of the Sun City community in Menifee. But I do know that even at age 86, her life shouldn't have ended Thursday afternoon at the intersection of McCall Blvd. and Encanto Drive.

Fleming was a passenger in a car that was turning left from eastbound McCall onto northbound Encanto. It never made it. An SUV heading westbound on McCall ran a red light, witnesses said, crashing into the car driven by Fleming's husband and carrying her in the passenger seat.

This fatal accident had nothing to do with me, my family or any of my friends. Even so, it happened close to home. Worse yet, police reports say it appears to have happened because the driver of the other vehicle was under the influence at the time.

The next day, we heard the unbelievable story of 26 people -- including 20 first graders -- who were shot to death by a gunman who stormed into an elementary school in Connecticut.

And we're supposed to finish buying our Christmas presents and put on a happy face for the holiday season.

It's tough. Even though most of us have no personal connection to either tragedy, it tests our faith in humanity. We ask questions: Why would a mother drive drunk, especially with a 3-year-old in the car? Why would anyone shoot innocent children? What's happening in our world?

I have no answers to these questions. I have only the faith to continue on. Faith enough to drive down the street without fear that some drunk will end my life. Faith enough to let my grandchildren go off to school each day trust that they will be safe.

Yes, we should have discussions about things we can do to address these problems. As a society, we must do this. And on a personal level, we must each do our part to show our love and compassion for others and to maximize the safety of those around us.

As Menifee continues to grow, our traffic problems increase. Addressing this issue is a long-range process. Meanwhile, it is our obligation to drive safely and look out for others -- whether we're on busy Newport Road, McCall Blvd., or a dirt road in one of the rural parts of town.

We have many schools within the city limits, and some do not have the greatest access. There are few routes into many of them and some involve unpaved, narrow dirt access roads.

Again, the issue is being addressed -- but not quickly enough. What can we do in the meantime? Reduce speeds in school zones and watch more carefully for pedestrians. School security? It might not be ideal, but we can do our part by watching out for things that seem strange or out of place. We can volunteer to help in our children's classrooms, to provide as much support to the teachers as possible.

As for Christmas? Well, we can remember that this holiday season is meant to celebrate the spirit of love and caring that must be present in order for us to carry on in the face of tragedy. If we lose that spirit, the dark side wins. And that must not happen.

So as we continue in this holiday season, no matter what your religious beliefs are, hug your loved ones and do something good for someone else. Ours is not a perfect world, but it's all we have. Let's make the most of it.

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