We’ve been hurt. Devastated. Stunned and saddened. Montecito isn’t just a place of exquisite lavish homes and accomplished well-heeled scions of society and industry. It has been a source of beauty and contentment for everyone near and far. Many of us in Santa Barbara feel we “live” in Montecito even if we don’t, because we have appreciated its beauty, its blissful institutions like Casa de Maria, its enjoyable restaurants and hotels, its singularly legendary beaches. But Montecito is important for far more than its beauty.
Montecito should be less famous for its standard of living and more for its standard of giving.
The people of Montecito collectively employ or finance many in this area on every economic level — from dayworkers to freelancers, artists to nonprofit workers, hospital staff to entrepreneurs. Montecito is a highly beneficial much-needed engine of commerce. The small city on a hill is deeply invested in the life of all of Santa Barbara. Irrefutably, Montecito has been and will be again a basket of giving, but it should not be taken for granted.
As everyone in and around Montecito struggles to deal with devastating losses of life, home, and environment, all walks of life and in all categories of financial well-being have been wounded, in many cases destroyed. We all need to give them our help, our good wishes, and give voice to their plight, and give our blessings. The most self-sufficient among us, the givers to this community, need to be embraced themselves.
Santa Barbara is famous and remarkable for its foundations. Even streets have foundations here. I’d venture to say there is pressure here on every economic level to give for the greater good. So much of that standard of giving and those funds, so many of the inspirations for well-being and caring, orginate from Montecito, where in many instances the impulse to give begins.
I’ve lived in other communities with centers of wealth where this isn’t so. I have lived in places where giving is not part of the culture, where it is not important, as it is here, to help others. Giving in those places is frequently not joyous and rarely benefits locals, multi-cultural people, or the environment. Montecito is singular in that regard.
Many are now realizing that we live in a “threaded” community. One where much of our happiness and livelihood is closely threaded with our neighbors, even if we don’t live in the same place or have the same economic means. Like the beauty and bliss of “living in paradise,” it should not be taken for granted. All of us who are safe and unaffected — at least physically — owe everyone else an opportunity to deal with these events and support them. All of us, unaffected or not, know several of the people in one way or another. Everyone knows someone.
Without being sanctimonious, it’s clear that this is not the tragedy and grief of one town. We all feel for the victims and our own loss whether we live in the “jewel by the sea,” or on the Eastside, or the Mesa. Everywhere that Montecito’s big-hearted resources and beauty has reached feels the loss and pain. That beauty and generosity cannot drown, or burn, or slide into the sea. We all pray and hope it will return to brighten our lives and continue to last, forever.