The sun was out yesterday. It was a beautiful day in Houston, Texas and it’s surrounding suburbs. Our “pet” gecko Stubby returned and the next door neighbor hung his American flag again. Children were outside playing, dogs were barking, cars were moving along the streets. Complete strangers were smiling and waving and shouting greetings. I’ve never seen so much celebrating of a very ordinary day that suddenly felt so extraordinary.
I had to keep checking the calendar to know what day it was. I’ve lost track of time. Was it only a week ago that my little corner of the world was completely normal, or was that years ago in another time and place? How is it even possible that so much can happen in the space of only days? Why is everyone so discombobulated? What is causing our voices to quiver with so much emotion? Why do I sense that every one of us who experienced the great Harvey flood of 2017 has forever changed?
There was a woman on television advising us to let our feelings out. She counseled that our tears that keep falling are a good thing, part of the process of healing. We have a city of over four million people who are suffering from PTSD. We have endured a lifetime of shock and awe in a very narrow space of time. Our minds and our bodies are reacting exactly as they were designed to do. We should not deny the hurt and the sorrow that is lurking just behind the courage and determination that is driving us to put our city back together. We each need outlets for our quiet worries. We need to embrace each other, hold hands allow the words that we are stifling to leave our lips. We must admit that we need help, even as we attempt to pull ourselves up on our own.
There is great power in reaching out to aid those who did not fare well in this disaster, but there are so many who need our help that it can feel overwhelming. It will be impossible to be in as many places as we want to be, so we must each contribute to the restoration process one step at a time, one day at a time. Even small gestures done collectively will make a great difference. We have to pace ourselves and conserve our energies for the long haul. We need to coordinate our efforts by sharing needs so that nobody will be forgotten, and realize that everyone has a role to play in the long marathon that lies ahead.
We are enthusiastic right now. The whole world is coming to our rescue. Everything seems possible in our present mood of rejoicing that the rains have stopped, but we have to remember that we humans are fickle. Long after interest in our city’s situation has waned, the work of rebuilding will remain. It will be up to us to keep the momentum going. We will need patience, grit, determination. There will be roadblocks and frustrations that will tempt us to lose our hope and rise up in anger. We need to be prepared for the long challenges that lie ahead.
I have marveled at the demonstrations of unity and friendship that I have seen over and over again. I always knew that Houston, Texas was the most remarkable city anywhere, but I guess I really didn’t understand just how deep its compassion and nobility actually is. I have been astounded over and over again by the spirit of this place. Where else is there a furniture store owner who opens his business to those seeking shelter from the storm? In which other place would a hometown sports hero challenge the world to send donations to bring immediate aid to his fans? Is there another town in which the local grocer would send food trucks into the most devastated areas? How do friends and family manage to wade through standing water to help those that they love pull saturated carpet and debris from water logged homes? What is it about Houston that is impressing the entire world?
I awoke this morning to find posts on Facebook that made me smile. Friends who live in Katy braved the waters surrounding their home yesterday to get a first look at what kind of damage had been done to their house. Before the sun had set an army of friends had come to help them to do the preliminary work needed to bring their house back to a habitable state. They filled the curb with carpet and sheetrock and celebrated their accomplishment with a photograph of their smiling crew. Such scenes were repeated all across the soggy landscape, and in every single case there were acquaintences and strangers alike helping in both big and little ways.
There are four million stories unfolding in Houston, each of them important and meaningful. Nobody here should feel alone or unseen. We have linked hands and will not let go. Neither will any of us ever again take our city and its people for granted. We were on the abyss, but we did not fall inside. Today as the sun rises again we marvel in its beauty. We see clearly with eyes that had been blinded to the wonder of this great place. We mark our time with a new kind of calendar that delineates the years before the flood and those that will come after. In the AF years we will surely become even stronger than we have ever been.
In the meantime we roll up our sleeves and we work. We have to think out of the box in finding solutions for today’s problems and planning for a better future. We must be willing to request assistance. People are waiting for the calls for help. They want to help, and they will respond. Give them the blessing of being able to do so for they too need to heal. Just ask for the aid that you need, and for those who can’t seem to find a cause, just seek. Somebody will be very happy for a donation, a meal, a cup of coffee, a friendly ear, a babysitter, a fan, a bottle of bleach, a hug. There is a student who would like a bag of school supplies or needs a counselor. Each of us must find a our role in the process, a way of helping.
We won’t be done tomorrow or even in a few weeks, but there will come a time when we will be able to look back on what we accomplished as a community with great pride. We’ll wear our Houston t-shirts and boast about a city that can’t be understood until you become one of us. We are proud. We are strong. We are beautiful. We are Houston.