What Do You See?

John O'Leary

John O'Leary

Inspiring Story of Overcoming Challenges

John O'Leary and Ruby Lafrance, Redding, CAHow the Community of Redding, CA Came Together After the Carr Fire

"There are some people who see a great deal and some who see very little in the same things." -T.H. Huxley

This past summer, the Carr Fire raged through Northern California.

It charred more than 200,000 acres of forest, destroyed more than 1,100 homes and inflicted more than $1.5 billion in damages. It also tragically claimed the lives of eight, including three firefighters. By the time the fire was extinguished, it was the 6th most destructive fire in California history and changed not only the landscape of the region, but the lives of every individual residing there.

And among those dramatically impacted was the city of Redding, CA. Their community was devastated, their citizens changed, their future altered.

So how did Redding respond as individuals, organizations, and communities when everything changed around them? How did they see the destruction, see what remained and see the opportunity within all of it?

Redding came together and galvanized as a community. They decided to gather the best ideas, not just to rebuild the community, but to make their future shine even brighter than their past.

A New Friend Reminds Me That What We Choose to Focus On Matters

At the public reveal of their plan a couple weeks ago, more than 1,000 citizens packed the beautiful Cascade Theater. I had the pleasure of being one of their speakers and as I spoke a young girl seated a few rows back seemed to take copious notes. Each time I glanced her direction, she was writing. After my presentation, I learned what she was writing about.

While preparing to leave the theater, this 13-year-old young lady approached me. She spoke softly, but confidently, and shared that she was deeply moved by my presentation, likes to write poetry and had written something special for me. Then, Ruby LaFrance, handed me a piece of paper with a poem on it.

Please read slowly this young poet's work below:

Mr. O'Leary
By Ruby LaFrance

This hope that you bring,
This wisdom you carry.
Pushing through everything,
Even when scary.

Through smoke and through flame,
Your spirit burns brighter.
A faith no one can tame,
Making light, even lighter.

Sky full of stars,
Each one its own.
Stronger from scars,
Reaping every seed sown.

Strong in a way,
That one rarely sees.
Joy day by day,
By the way you believe.

Letters shaped with gentle touch,
Words stacked into towers.
Weaving paragraphs, from little to much,
A single page lasting hours.

So Redding does thank you,
For all that you do.
The words you have shared,
Bringing broken to whole, and old to new.

Following the Example of Young Redding Resident Ruby LaFrance

In a marketplace and with media that focuses primarily on the negative, be the kind of inspired leader that won't ignore it, but also refuses to be engulfed by it. For if you see only devastation, only scars, only the bad stuff, you will find it will be everywhere in order to validate that opinion.

But my new friend Ruby, surrounded by 1,000 people from her community, made the choice to focus not simply on the devastation and negativity, but on the opportunities and beauty within it. She saw it within my story, and she most certainly sees it within her community. She serves as a brilliant example of what can happen when we view life through the lens of possibility.

It turns out there are some people who see a great deal of hope and some who see very little in the same things. But my friends, whatever we choose to focus on expands around us. [Tweet this.] | [Share on Facebook.]

So today, choose to see like Ruby. Choose to bring broken to whole, and old to new.

Choose to see the possibility and beauty before you.

This is your day. Live Inspired.


It's commonplace to focus on the bad and popular to overemphasize what's wrong. Then our neighbors, politicians and the media validate this opinion, which further leaves us weighed down by the incessant crisis of the day. The problem? It's just not true. The overwhelming majority of statistics on global malnutrition, violence, war, freedoms and economies are dramatically improving. So, our most recent guest on the Live Inspired Podcast does something seldom done: he shares actual truths about where we are - compared to where we've been - and reminds us how remarkably fortunate these times really are. For a healthy dose of honest optimism, join us as Greg Easterbrook reminds us that things are not perfect, but are significantly better than they look. Listen here!

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