What Harvey Couldn't Have Predicted
Nothing like a hurricane to put things into perspective. I’ve been drawn into the news stories, the visual images forever stamped on my brain. Like the days following 9/11 and Katrina, only this time it’s even closer to home. Thankfully the number of lives lost doesn’t begin to compare to 9/11, and yet the sense of loss and devastation is still very, very real.
I see the footage of entire neighborhoods flooded. Furniture, mattresses, all kinds of treasured household belongings, saturated and piled on the curb awaiting bulky item trash pick-up. I climb into my own bed at night, grateful in a whole new way for a dry house and a soft place to sleep, but at the same time I hurt for the tens of thousands of our fellow Texans who are sleeping in crowded shelters tonight, and for the foreseeable future. I lay my head on my pillow and the thought crosses my mind that there’s no way they could have enough pillows for everyone. I wonder, how many people are trying to fall asleep on a hard floor in some strange warehouse?
Two things have stood out to me in the wake of this storm. One is the amazing influx of help and support from so many people. Out of tragedy has arisen a strong, beautiful spirit of community and sacrifice and service. People touched by the plight of our fellow human beings, putting their own daily lives on hold to buy supplies, to gather clothes and bedding and food, many even joining the rescue efforts with their own boats and jet skis.
I was having coffee at Ground Up Coffee in Celina last week and the owner, Tom Bates, had just decided to rent a big truck, collect donations, and drive toward Houston. He had no idea exactly where he would end up or what to expect when he got there, but he cared too much to do nothing. Check out the pics on the Ground Up Facebook page to see how this story played out. It will warm your heart.
My conversation with Tom inspired me. It’s too easy to become numbed by the tragic stories we see in the news every day. To turn off the tv or shut down the computer and say “What a shame” and then carry on about our business. Sometimes the problems seem too overwhelming. What can one person do? What can I do?
Well, as it turns out, one person can do a lot. One person can certainly do something. And a lot of persons doing something add up to a whole lot of help.
Remember Mister Roger’s Neighborhood? When Fred Rogers was a little boy and he would see scary things in the news or the movies, his mom would say to him, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” In this story, I see many, many helpers. I see helpers in uniforms and in everyday clothes, helpers of all ages, colors, shapes and sizes. The one common theme is that they all have big hearts. Let this be the headline story that goes down in history – not the multi-billion dollar loss but the courageous spirit of the helper.
The other thing that has come to the forefront of my mind through all of this is just how quickly our stuff can become worthless. I know I talk a lot on my blog posts about creating beauty in our homes and yards and in “the space we share”, and I fully believe this is a good thing, a God-ordained thing. But watching floodwaters rise in the homes of both the rich and the poor, I’m reminded that if my life is invested primarily in things that can be destroyed in a matter of hours or days or moments, then it’s a misspent life.
I’m sure much of the talk in the coming days will be about rebuilding. And yes, let’s rebuild! Let’s create beauty in place of destruction and chaos. But Lord, let us remember that the real beauty is not in the tangible stuff, the houses rebuilt and redecorated. It’s in the intangible. The generosity of strangers. The pulling together of community. It’s in the love we live out. This is the stuff that lasts.