I grew up about thirty minutes north of Houston proper. To be fair, that’s thirty minutes without traffic, but as any Houstonian knows, actual travel time can vary dramatically. I often refer to Houston as a city with which I have a love-hate relationship with. I hate it because it’s hot and humid for fifty weeks of the year. I love it because of its diversity – you can find just about any type of person or perspective within the metro. I hate it because it is a place that houses painful memories for me, but I love it because it also contains wonderful memories.
2008 was perhaps one of the most significant years for me, personally. It was the year during which I first became interested in politics, which would end up changing my trajectory. It was also the year during which my mother suffered and died from cancer. Two months before my mother passed away, the city experienced an incredible storm, Hurricane Ike.
Ike, much like Hurricane Harvey, was a deadly storm, knocking out electricity for some and entire homes for others. In the aftermath, neighbors helped each other, citizens took control of cleaning up their own communities, and the city bounced back stronger than ever. We had an RV, so we were able to provide ice while others on our street had chainsaws, so they could clear the roads. These were small, albeit, significant displays of selflessness. But at the time, I didn’t fully understand why this was important.
There are moments in people’s lives that change their perspective. Whether it’s a birth, a marriage, a death, the final episode of a long-running television show, or some other significant event, these moments bring out emotions that often spark change within us.
The change can be good, making people more optimistic about life, such as the birth of a healthy baby. The change can also be bad, causing people to lose hope, such as the death of a loved one. Whether good or bad, they matter.
I’ve spent the last week or so largely away from most social media because I wanted to reflect on some feelings I was experiencing. As Hurricane Harvey hit, I was scared for my friends and family in its path. As the flooding happened, I became heartbroken for the city that raised me. And in the aftermath, I have found myself becoming emotional as help poured in from all over the country.
Neighbors have been helping neighbors survive and rebuild, celebrities and regular people alike have teamed up to raise more than $27 million, local businesses and organizations are stepping up to provide for those in need, and people who have never been to Texas before are showing up to help people they’ve never met.
Hurricane Harvey has brought out the best in humanity and has shown how, when called upon to do so, people can forgo self-preservation to help others.
For the first time in years, I feel as if people are beginning to understand that we can’t survive, let alone thrive, without supporting and loving each other. It’s both fascinating and somber to think of how disasters like a hurricane or a terrorist attack seem to be the only things that can bring us together.
“The value of our lives is not determined by what we do for ourselves,” Simon Sinek writes in Together is Better. “The value of our lives is determined by what we do for others.”
As short-lived as the unity and compassion from Hurricane Harvey may be, I think it’s important that we cherish it and take note of how good it feels to help others. It’s a refreshing break from our regularly scheduled outrage and negativity. Perhaps it will inspire people, as it has for me, to evaluate what we’re doing to work with others and change the world for the better.
Please consider donating to one of the many organizations that are helping Hurricane Harvey survivors.