First Things First

What Hurricane Harvey Shows Us About America

Just over a week ago people across the nation and the world watched Hurricane Harvey catastrophically pummel Texas and Louisiana. The hurricane decimated entire towns. Flooding described as “of Biblical proportions” impacted 6.5 million people in the greater Houston area. Thousands had to leave their homes and seek shelter.

All of this has been taking place while many say these United States are more divided than ever.

Then something happened. Ordinary people from Houston and across the country showed up to help. Hundreds of people who dubbed themselves the “Cajun Navy” showed up to help rescue people from their homes. Complete strangers worked side by side to bring people to safety. And it wasn’t just about the people. Others went out in the flood waters to rescue pets, free horses trapped in round pens and drive cattle to higher ground. All this, in addition to the first responders, FEMA, the Red Cross, Salvation Army and many faith-based entities.

On Wednesday, Brene Brown, Houston author of “Daring Greatly,” posted a plea on Facebook for underwear because while they had lots of clothes, people needed underwear. Within minutes, thousands shared her post, and it was viewed over a million times. Not only did Undies for Everyone, a Houston nonprofit, experience immediate response, but people also purchased underwear and sent it to them. As of September 3, they had sorted and distributed at least 100,000 pairs of underwear.

J.J. Watt, from the Houston Texans, set out to raise $200,000 to help his fellow Houstonians rebuild. To date, he has raised more than $18 million. On Saturday and Sunday he handed out boxes of supplies to victims saying all of it was in addition to the donated money.

Then there’s Mattress Mack, the furniture store owner who opened his stores for those stranded saying, “To hell with the profits, let’s save people.” His daughter said this about her dad:

“Sometimes in life those closest to you surprise you in ways even beyond your realm of thought. Dad, it doesn’t surprise me at all that you opened your stores to our fellow Houstonians, you would give your last breath for another, but it still amazes me how selfless you are. More than any being on earth, I hope I’m half the person you are one day. During these horrific five days my faith in humanity has been restored over and over, and you Dad are at the top of that list.”

As recovery efforts began, Mattress Mack has announced he wants to rebuild or repair 1000 homes and 1000 apartments in 100 days. And, he wants to do it all with the help of volunteers.

If you haven’t read about how Texas grocery store chain, H-E-B, was able to keep their doors open during the storm to provide essentials to people, it’s amazing and worth the read.

The list could go on of faith-based institutions, first responders from other states, and groups of concerned citizens who drove for hours. They all came together, performing heroic acts to help those in need. The worst of times brought out the best in people both near and far. Nobody questioned political persuasion, skin color, education level, or anything else. Instead, they stepped up and did what they had to do in the moment. As a result, thousands of lives were saved. Nobody was looking for anything in return. In fact, it was a blessing for many to be able to help others.

Is it possible we aren’t as divided as people say we are across this country?  Someone once said that while the needle on the compass may shake at times, it always finds north. Did Harvey help us as people of these United States remember north? Hopefully, as we all move forward, we won’t forget these powerful moments. Perhaps the worst of times bring out the best in some people. Maybe times like these will create a national ripple effect of change for the better.

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