A Taste of Home

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Have you ever had a yearning for a particular something to eat only to have your hopes dashed because it wasn’t available? That happened to me and husband Mike last week. He’d visited one of his doctors and underwent a multitude of lab tests that required him to fast. He received positive news from his doctor regarding his progress in regaining his health, so we decided to celebrate by getting an omelet at The Union Kitchen on Bellaire Blvd., a favorite place to meet up with good friends for Sunday brunch. We were almost salivating as we contemplated the yumminess that was in store, and happily we got a nice table on the patio right away. The weather was quite lovely and it felt as though we were experiencing one of those picture perfect days in Houston, something for which we longed after being somewhat homebound for the past three months, not to mention having witnessed the horrors of hurricane Harvey. When we opened the menu and it became apparent that there was not an omelet to be found. A quick inquiry with the waiter revealed that breakfast items are part of the weekend brunch offerings but not the weekday fare. Mike’s disappointment was palatable.

I was willing to compromise by trying something else but Mike had his heart set on an omelet since he had missed having breakfast earlier in the day. Besides we had chosen this particular restaurant for a very specific reason. We had intended it to be yet another medical test on that day.  You see, from taking Plavix as a blood thinner after his stroke Mike had lost all sense of taste. His description of the sensation was that his tongue felt as though is was wrapped in plastic. Everything that he ate had the flavor of water crackers, blandness that had taken away all the joy of eating. He was able to discern textures but no flavors. Eating had become an exercise in getting proper nutrients but little more. When he reported this side effect to his neurologist the medication regimen was changed, but it had nonetheless taken quite a while for his tastebuds to become active again. Only days before had he begun to slowly enjoy the essences of food. Eating the omelet at The Union Kitchen was intended as a treat on many different levels because he had found that delicacy so enjoyable in the past when we had been there with very dear friends.

I suggested that we just leave since we had not yet ordered. I doubted that anyone would even notice our departure, but in that regard I was wrong. Mike was polite enough to inform the hostess that we had changed our minds and would not be staying. We had no sooner walked out the door than the manager, Rob Thomas, and the owner of the restaurant rushed outside to determine what might have happened to cause us to want to depart so suddenly. When I explained the situation they requested that we return to our table and insisted that it would be no problem whatsoever to prepare any kind of omelet that we desired. We smiled and sat down feeling rather special. We decided on a vegetarian omelet and waited with pleasant anticipation.

Mr. Thomas brought our food to us personally. He had included extras on the plate like freshly sliced avocado and roasted potatoes and peppers. The presentation of the meal was a work of art with a delightful color palate and an aroma that made us even more eager to eat. As expected the omelet was exceptional with the perfect pairing of onions, peppers, mushrooms, eggs and Swiss cheese. Best of all Mike was able to savor every lovely flavor because his tastebuds were as active as they had ever been. We relished the moment and marveled at the extraordinary service that Rob Thomas had insisted on providing us.

While we ate we watched Mr. Thomas visiting with the diners at every table, making unique orders become reality over and over again. Eventually he came to see if we had been satisfied with our meal, and we were able to tell him the entire story of Mike’s stroke and the journey that we had made in the ensuing weeks. We were no doubt a bit long winded and there were so many customers, but Mr. Thomas never once acted impatient to leave. He listened with great interest and sympathy even joking that as a restauranteur he would rather go blind than not be able to taste food. He also told us that because the Union Kitchen is a scratch kitchen he can alter most recipes and fulfill special requests with little or no problem. He noted that with several grocery stores in the area he would not be reluctant to run out to get whatever he needed in an emergency. Then he gave us his business card with his personal phone number, urging us to call him ahead of time if we wanted something unusual on one of our future visits. He even revealed that he has special pans in the kitchen marked with the names of customers with severe allergies. He uses them whenever they come so that the dishes he prepares for them will not be cross contaminated.

We laughed and joked and mentioned that we felt as though we were a bit like Jack Nicholson in the diner scene of Five Easy Pieces ordering dry toast. When we explained that classic bit of Hollywood brilliance he laughed and said that he was going to use it at his next meeting with the waiters. Then he began to wonder if Mike would also be able to taste something sweet and insisted that we choose from among the restaurant’s desserts for a treat that he was going to give us without cost. We’re suckers for bread pudding and the creme brûlée variety sounded particularly tempting, so we decided to forget the diet for a few minutes in the interest of experimenting. We were not disappointed in the least. Not only was Mike able to distinguish its delicate blend of sugars and spices, but it was also one of the best versions that we have ever eaten.

We left The Union Kitchen so full that we only ate raisin bran for dinner later that night. Most of our satisfaction though came from the superb customer service that Rob Thomas had provided. He had made us feel quite special on a day that was particularly important to us. We both agreed that we would make The Union Kitchen a regular outing. We still eschew salt and sugar and carbs at home, but even Mike’s doctor has told him that he doesn’t have to be a repentant monk all of the time. It really is okay to enjoy some remarkable tastiness now and again, and I can’t think of any place that I would rather go than The Union Kitchen, a place with wonderful food and even better friendliness. I’m so glad that Rob Thomas came after us. He managed to provide us with a brunch that we will probably never forget. He gave us a taste home and old fashioned service that is all too often missing in today’s hurried world. It was a five star experience. You should try it yourself sometimes. Just tell Rob that they guy who couldn’t taste sent you.

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The Importance of Being There

largeAs adults we wear many different hats, all of which takes chunks of time to accomplish. We have relationships to nurture with family and friends. We may hold jobs that demand enormous numbers of hours. We want to be healthy, and so we may be dedicated to a routine of exercise and healthy eating. If we are religious we attend church services or read from tracts integral to better understanding our faiths. There are tasks related to our finances, the maintenance of our homes, and personal care and feeding. We push back moments of relaxation even though we know that we need them as much as the other dynamics of living. We are on the go from the moment that we arise in the morning until we fall exhausted into bed at night, sometimes far later than we might have wished. If anything happens to alter our routines we may feel as though we are drowning. An accident, an illness, a death, an unexpected event has the power of throwing us out of kilter, because we already feel pushed and prodded from all sides. Since we are responsible we do our best to satisfy everyone who is asking us to give them our time and talents, but we often feel as though we are slighting everyone and every aspect of our busy days. We find people among us who appear to keep it together so much better than we do which only adds to our feelings of imperfection. We are taught to admire the over achievers among us and to scoff at slackers, but we somehow think that living on a perpetually moving hamster wheel isn’t the best way to spend our days.

I’m as guilty of running at full speed in the rat race as anyone. I tend to be a classic Type A personality. I recall times when my mother or my in-laws would drop by our home unexpectedly throwing my finely honed schedule into a state of chaos. I still remember how anxious I felt and how much I wanted them to leave as quickly as possible so that I might resume my routines. Sadly I can’t remember any of the tasks that I was so frantic to do, but I do have fond memories of those visits and I find myself wishing with all of my heart that my loved ones might come knocking on my door once again. It’s funny how our perspective changes over time, and how we ultimately come to value our relationships over all of the other distractions that once seemed so important.

I copied a quote from someone’s Facebook wall that spoke to me. It goes something like this:

What if we stopped celebrating busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrate how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives? —-Greg McKeown

It’s funny how Mr. McKeown’s words are little more than common sense, but they seem so profound. Why is it that we all too often choose to ignore what is truly significant in favor of tasks and duties that other people tell us are important? Why are we so often fearful of shedding some of our responsibilities so that we might devote more of our time to making ourselves and the people around us happy? Why aren’t our heroes the people who have learned how to say “No”, or those who allow a bit of dust to accumulate in their homes so that they will be free to have some fun?

As an educator I sometimes encountered parents who were well known and highly regarded in the community because of their many outstanding achievements, but they were literally neglecting their children. Somehow their little ones had become not much more than props that helped in the advancement of their careers. When their kids began to falter and fail they could not understand that their continual absence from the home was a major contributing factor. Instead of altering their own behaviors they often threatened to send the young ones away if they did not work harder to overcome their lazy ways. What those students actually needed was a more stable and loving home life, not lectures on becoming more like their parents. The oft lauded parents had eschewed their duties in favor of devotion to careers, and somehow never learned how to balance their lives to include loving time for their offspring. 

I’ve also met brilliant men and women who chose to view their jobs as an adjunct to the real purpose of their lives, which was to build a nurturing and loving home. These individuals were often viewed as being rather average employees because they gave full efforts during normal work hours, but insisted on going home at reasonable times. For them what happened at the end of the day when family gathered together was the highlight of their efforts. The job was work, but what happened at home defined their essence. We sometimes overlook the enormous accomplishment of being an excellent parent, even to the point of dismissing women who spend a significant portion of their lives staying home to raise the children. We dismissively ask them what they do and judge them to be uninteresting once we realize that they have not had exciting careers outside of their homes.

Perhaps many of the ills that we presently see in society have their origin in the frantic paces that define so many of us. We are so busy running from one event to another that we don’t allow ourselves to do the things that Mr. Mckeown suggests should be backbone of our existence. If we were more willing to listen there would be far less hatred and far fewer broken souls. If we allowed ourselves to ponder the things that we see and hear and read we would be less inclined to fall for propaganda. If we were to make meditation an integral part of our days we might learn to relax and love ourselves just a bit more. If we were to spend more time with the people that matter most to us we would find more contentment, and most assuredly we would build more beautiful relationships and memories.

As I look back over the sixty plus years of my life I recall  hundreds of spectacular moments that make me smile and feel accomplished. Few of them resulted from performing mundane tasks to impress people who would eventually drift out of my life. The best of them center around people, members of my family, my friends, my students and colleagues. In the end it is not how busy we are that makes us important, but how well we spend the time that we have. In being there for ourselves and the people who mean the most to us we find our ultimate success.

A Wedding, Two Funerals, and A Hurricane

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This summer has left me forever changed in ways more dramatic than I might ever have imagined. It began innocently enough with a visit to New Orleans with grandson Ian. He saw my favorite city with a new set of eyes that were innocent and inquisitive. It was the history of the place that fascinated him more than even the food and entertainment. He was particularly entranced with the World War II Museum which filled him with wonder and so many questions. I suppose that in many ways the day that we spent reliving the drama and importance of that era when was the beginning of a circle of life that left me profoundly different by the end of my journey through the warm lazy days that have heretofore represented fun and frolic to me, but would no longer be so simple to consider.

After our sojourn in New Orleans we travelled to Cancun for the wedding of two of our favorite friends, Tim and Dickie. We learned just how powerful love can be and that how it cannot be narrowly defined. We also went on a journey back in history to study the Mayan people and their glorious civilization that had been quite advanced in its time. It humbled us to learn of the ingenuity of mankind, but also to understand that the upheavals of life and how we humans react to them have the power to take down or raise up even nations.

We had scheduled so many more amazing travels for July and August when our world was shaken to its very foundation. My husband Mike had a stroke on July 3, and it was as though the earth itself had stood still. Nothing really mattered to me other than Mike’s health and I was thankful that he was still alive and that I would have more time to convey my feelings for him. I suppose that from that exact moment forward I quit taking anything for granted. I became more attuned to the colors and sounds and people all around me. I rejoiced each day when both Mike and I arose. I reveled in even the smallest bits of joy that came our way. Somehow I found myself caring little for things and greatly appreciative of relationships and love.

Mike and I shared a viewing of a partial eclipse of the sun rather than than the total one that we had planned to witness. I suppose that I should have been disappointed that we were not able to travel to Wyoming for the event, but having the pleasure of sitting with Mike in a park watching the little piece of wonder that we were given was more than ample for me. I felt that our day together was truly glorious just because we had the gift of being together. Whenever I thought of what might have been, I felt frightened but mostly grateful for my blessings. Each new day was glorious, but I had little idea that an even greater test of my endurance lay ahead.

As the summer drew to a close my two eldest grandsons readied to go off to college. We celebrated at our favorite Cuban restaurant, El Meson, in the Village area of Houston near Rice University and the Medical Center. It was a beautiful night in which we enjoyed knowing what fine young men our Andrew and Jack had become. It was yet another reason to be thankful and our hearts were filled with joy.

Later we had the privilege of having our twin grandsons Ben and Eli at our home while their parents helped their older brother to check into his dorm at Texas A&M. I was charged with helping the two boys to complete a project for their English class and we worked quite hard for an entire Saturday. I woke them up early on Sunday so that we might finish and still have time for some fun before their parents returned. Just as I had hoped we found ourselves with enough free hours that we were able to go bowling at the Main Event. Later that evening we played a rousing game of Scrabble with no holds barred, and Eli literally blew us all away with a remarkable score. We laughed and felt so good that I once again found myself silently saying prayers of thanks for such precious moments.

Then came the threat of hurricane Harvey. It seemed that because the eye of the storm would be so far away we would be in little danger. There were predictions of massive rainfall but somehow that didn’t seem to be much of a problem, and so we decided to stay in our home. On the first day after the hurricane made landfall we spoke of the hysteria of the forecasters because their promises of floods appeared to have been premature. We were much more saddened by images of the devastation in Rockport, Texas, one of our all time favorite camping spots. It was not until the evening that the rains began and kept going and going and going for three solid days leaving forty three inches in our neighborhood alone.

We began to hear dire reports of friends and family members whose homes were taking on water. The television stations showed us live pictures of familiar places that looked like ocean front property. More and more people that we knew were evacuating, sometimes in the middle of the night. Suddenly I became fearful because it was apparent that if my husband had another stroke there would be little that we might do to get the help that he would need. Those three days became a kind of terror for me. I watched the rain and the street in front and the yard in the back, ever vigilant and unable to sleep lest I might need to get Mike to a medical facility. I cared not about any of the things in my home, but only about my husband and his safety. I realized that I was going to do whatever it took to get him through.

When the rain finally stopped and moved away from our city after dumping fifty one inches across a one hundred mile wide area I was emotionally drained and filled with conflicting emotions. I cried for all of the souls whose worlds had been turned upside down. I sobbed for those who had lost their lives and their homes. I felt lucky that Mike had made it through the days and nights in good condition. I laughed that we had stayed home from camping trips and the eclipse lest he be in a situation in which he might not be able to receive immediate medical care, and ironically for three days we had essentially been trapped on a kind of island with so much happening all around us that we were actually quite alone. I had to praise God for caring for us and for giving me the strength and the calm that I had needed to weather the storm.

Last week our city began to attempt a return to normalcy in earnest. Children returned to school. Adults went back to work. There were actually days that felt so much like the glorious beginning of fall that has always made Houston a kind of Chamber of Commerce postcard. Only rides around town reminded us of the horror of what had happened. Still we had to be happy that we were able to meet with great friends for a brunch on Sunday. We were grateful that we got to visit Mike’s father on Monday and see that he was doing well. Then our week was punctuated with the sorrow and celebration of the lives of two incredible women who had died. I think that perhaps more than any other event their funerals impacted me with a realization of what is truly most important as we live out our days.

Both of these beautiful souls had lived through those harrowing events of World War II that we had studied in New Orleans with Ian. One of them had resided in England. She met her soulmate during that conflict, an American GI. The two of them fell in love and he took her back to his home in Texas where they had seven children that they raised in a home filled with love and goodness and faith in God. The other woman had been born in Italy but eventually immigrated to New Orleans where she too met the love of her life. They also wound up in Houston in the same neighborhood where I grew up. They had four children who would become dear friends of mine. Both women were devoted to their families and required very little in the way of possessions or wealth to be happy. They sacrificed for family and felt honored to do so. In the end they were in turn loved and adored by their children and their friends.

When I attended the two funerals I was accompanied by people that I had known since I was quite young. We had each accumulated a lifetime of stories and memories, but somehow we knew that those women had demonstrated to us how to truly get the most out of life. I felt a sense of peace and a feeling of understanding that has all too often eluded me as I have fought to accomplish rather than to relate. I saw that these women had always realized that titles and bank accounts and possessions were not the things that define a life well lived, but rather the moments when we touch hearts. Somehow I understood that in spite of the topsy turvy nature of this summer, it had been magnificent because it had opened my eyes to how I need to embrace each moment that I have. Somehow I am all the better for what I have learned from that wedding, the hurricane and those two funerals.

Two Women of Distinction

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I was a Catholic school girl. I attended Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Elementary School from the second grade all the way through the eighth. The years when I was there were at the height of the Baby Boom, and so we had multiple classes for each grade and the classrooms were always crowded. I knew everyone’s name, but didn’t always have the opportunity to become close friends with all of the students in my grade. Still, there were certain people who stood out as being quite special even as children. Because I felt gawky and shy I found myself longing to be like some of the kids that I considered to be a cut above the rest of us ordinary souls.

In the eighth grade an annual ceremony honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary took place each May. We had the honor of voting for the one girl that we believed to be worthy of such a high distinction. We were instructed to consider our choices carefully, not basing them on popularity, but rather on evidence of impeccable character. Even though I only knew her from afar at that time, I did not hesitate to vote for Linda Daigle, a friendly and generous young lady who always appeared to be thinking of others more than herself. I saw her as the embodiment of the lessons that we were taught in our daily religion classes.

Eventually Linda and I matriculated to the same high school. I still only observed her from from admiration rather than a close relationship, but she only impressed me more and more over the next four years. Somehow she had a way of making people feel so comfortable and she was humble about her talents and her good nature. I continued to believe that she was someone whose character I wanted to emulate. Imagine my surprise when we ended up becoming fast friends once we had moved on to the same university. Over more the than forty years that we have shared a friendship absolutely nothing has changed my original assessment of Linda as a model of compassion and love.

When Linda and I first began to grow close I finally had the pleasure of meeting her mother, Rose Daigle. In Rose I saw the beauty that was the source of Linda’s attractiveness. I also found the same ever present welcoming nature and spirit of boundless hospitality. I loved visiting that house where we often sat at the kitchen table enjoying one of Mrs. Daigle’s special homemade treats. She spoke with a unique accent that is only found in the speech patterns of people born and raised in New Orleans, and I found it to be delightful. I always felt so special just listening to her.

Rose Daigle had grown up in New Orleans but eventually set up a household in Houston, Texas with her husband Bernard. Together they raised four very bright and well mannered children. Rose made her home quite lovely with her skills at sewing, decorating, gardening and cooking. I liked the atmosphere that pervaded her house and thought her to be as wonderful as her daughter Linda.

I’ve been friends with Linda for decades now. We raised our children together and somehow managed to keep in touch even if we only saw each other once a year. When we talk we are able to converse for hours, mostly because Linda is such a good listener and a truly sensitive and concerned person. I suppose that I have told her as much about myself as anyone knows, because I feel as safe with her as I often did when I visited her mother.

Rose Daigle lived quietly in her home long after her children had all left and many years beyond the time when her husband had died. Her life centered on her children, grandchildren, her church and her home. She loved to putter in her yard and always got a kick out of showing her handiwork to visitors and giving them cuttings of her plants. She began to slow down though as her energy waned and her mind became more and more muddled. Her children finally realized that she had reached the point at which she would no longer be able to stay alone at her house. They tried various solutions and ultimately found a secure place for Rose in an assisted living facility.

True to form Rose’s daughter Linda was completely devoted to her mother’s care. She lovingly visited her mother three times every single day, making certain that all of Rose’s needs were met. Linda did all of her mom’s laundry and created little celebrations not just for her parent, but for all of the workers who watched over Rose. She was steadfast in her resolve to make her mother’s twilight years as lovely as possible and she did a yeoman’s job in that regard. Over time Rose thrived because of Linda’s efforts and seemed to become even more beautiful and ageless than she had ever been. I loved seeing photos of the birthdays, the Mardi Gras celebrations, and the Christmas parties that put huge smiles on Rose’s face. She seemed to revel in the love and attention that she received from Linda as well as the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who religiously visited with her

In the past few months Rose’s health began to fail. She was 98 years old and becoming more and more weak. She had stays at the hospital and even received the last rites at one point, but somehow she rallied time and again. Sadly last week she seemed to have lost the old spark that had so defined her life. Linda continued to stand vigil over her mom while still managing to help Houston flood victims by washing mountains of clothing and linens as well as dishes, antiques and kitchen utensils. I suspect that she was just being wonderful Linda the way that her mother had so often showed her how to be, always giving in every regard.

Rose died this past weekend. She became another precious angel in a heaven that is being crowded with the parents of my generation. I suspect that she is free of pain and glowing radiantly like the vision of loveliness that she always was. She’s no doubt reuniting with friends and relatives and maybe even puttering in a perfect garden or creating a culinary delight. She was indeed a very good woman of distinction of the kind that all of us should strive to be. She loved with all of her heart and now she is receiving her just rewards.

My heart is heavy for Linda and her family. No matter the circumstances it is always difficult to lose a parent, especially one as remarkable as Rose Daigle. I pray that Linda will find peace and comfort in her heart and that she will also get some much needed rest. In my estimation Linda is as close to being a living saint as anyone I have ever known. I suppose that I will continue to be in awe of her forevermore.

More Love Than Water

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Early during Harvey’s rampage across Texas a photo of elderly residents of a nursing home went viral. It showed them sitting in waist deep water waiting to be rescued. It was a vivid image of just how horrific the effects of that storm actually were. A second picture eventually made the rounds showing the same individuals safe and sound in a new location. They were nicely attired and smiling, and it made us all feel better about their fate. The sad thing is that even as we begin the recovery process, the toll that this disaster is taking on our oldest citizens is almost silently brutal. So many of our quite vulnerable elderly population were frightened and confused by a situation that they were too often not able to understand, and in far too many cases the consequences for them have been as devastating as the floods themselves.

I’ll be sixty nine in November and my husband’s birthday will be his seventieth later this month, but I’m not so much talking about people like us as those who are fifteen or so years older than we are. Many of them suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia and found themselves in foreign situations that made it difficult for them to adapt. One friend’s mother had to be constantly reminded of why she was not in her home, and why she would not be allowed to go back there until the rains ceased. She wanted to know who Harvey was, insisting that she knew no one by that name. It was an exceedingly stressful many days even for those caring for her, because they worried about her delicate condition.

Yet another person with whom I worked for years lost her mother. The woman’s death will not be counted among the victims of the storm, but she most certainly died because of the effects of the deluge. She lived in an assisted living facility because she too had Alzheimers. During the rains the home where she stayed flooded, and the patients were rescued and taken to a shelter. Sadly the sweet lady awoke during the middle of the night and was shaken when she did not know where she was. In her bewildered state of mind she began to wander in the dark, and in the process she fell and broke multiple bones in her fragile body. She was sent to a hospital where it was deemed necessary to operate, but first precautions had to be taken because she was on blood thinners. Unfortunately the poor soul did not make it and her funeral was this past Friday. Her family is heartbroken and, those of us who grieve with them wonder if but for the storm their beloved family member might still be alive.

This past week two of the ninety something year old mothers of high school friends of mine have also passed. I can’t help but think of how much the change in their routines must have affected them. They were such kind and loving women who had at one time been so strong that they would have tackled the beast called Harvey head on. This time they were too old and weak to adjust to the terrible demands that all of the devastation has placed on our city. I keep seeing such incidents being repeated over and over again, and it is beyond heartbreaking.

There are kidney patients who missed their dialysis appointments and then had to wait all day long, sitting on the floor for their turns to receive the life saving treatments that they needed. Surgeries had to be cancelled and chemo-therapies were missed. Some people lost all of their medications and had to go without them for days, risking lethal side effects in the process. It was and remains an incredibly trying time around here that none of us will soon forget.

The sun has been out for days. The temperature is cooler than it generally is in the Houston area. We spend our time attempting to help as many as we can, but sometimes we have to back off just a bit and rest lest we run out of steam before the job is done. In the meantime our elderly are dealing with so many after effects, not the least of which is a desire to be able to do more to help than they are physically able. In my own case I have received phone calls and messages from loving friends cautioning me to take it easy and get some rest. Somehow thus far I have been able to draw upon reserves of energy that I did not know that I had, but I can feel the weariness of the city setting in among even the youngest.

Everything looks and feels so different and we have had to learn how to relax again and return to routines that somehow don’t feel as important as they once did. As our children go back to school we worry about how they will be. How will they do homework and study without the comfort of their homes? What nightmares are they hiding from us? Are they as muddled as the oldest members of our hometown have sometimes been? How can we be assured that they are as well taken care of as they need to be?

I drove through an area of South Houston near the intermediate school where I spent the bulk of my career teaching. I found myself sobbing convulsively as I drove down one street after another in which every single home had been affected. The piles of debris made the scene appear to be a war zone. I know that most of these poor souls have never had much in the way of wealth other than hard working attitudes and pride in knowing that they have places of their own. I truly found myself feeling the pain of their suffering and then I saw a most amazing sight. At a local elementary school the children and their families were playing on inflatables. They were smiling and having a good time if only for a few moments. There were tents where people were serving food and handing out information on how to find help. I felt a bittersweet sense of hope in this glorious vision among the most horrific ruin.

I later worked at a school on Friday where a pantry had been set up for those who needed the most basic of necessities. The number of volunteers and the outpouring of donations were incredible, causing me to think of something that one of the victims of the torrential rains stated as he was rescued from his flooded home, “There is more love in this city than water.” Indeed that is the case, but we cannot be too quick to change the subject and simply move on. This has been a natural disaster that even a talented screen writer might never have imagined. Together with generous individuals from all across the globe we have tackled the initial challenges of our devastation, but there is still so much to do. I find myself praying that we do not just become the cause of the week, for even as things appear to be more and more normal the misery continues. There will be those so severely weakened both physically and psychologically that they will suffer for days and weeks and maybe even months to come. We have to remember them. We have to be ready to help them in every possible way. We have to prove that there really is more love here than there was water.