I remember staying up all night watching the news when hurricane Ike hit Houston in 2008. I called my parents every 2 hours through the night. I couldn’t do much sitting in NYC, but somehow knowing that they were okay made me feel like I was doing something. While Ike was a devastating hurricane, it could have been much worse for Houston.
When the news reports of hurricane Harvey approaching started coming in, I began to worry as I always do. This time I was sitting in LA and I wanted that small voice in the back of my head to remind me that maybe this won’t be that bad. Except that didn’t happen. And it was that bad.
I know my experience doesn’t compare to those who actually went through this disaster first hand, but watching my hometown get devastated brought upon a sadness I had not experienced before. I will never forget that helpless feeling when I got text messages in the middle of the night from friends worried about the water rising in their homes.
I have just now started to process all the emotions over the past few weeks as friends and family rebuild their lives over again. What can you really say to comfort those who are hurting so much?
What I do know is that natural disasters do not discriminate. Whether you are rich or poor, republican or democrat-natural disasters affect everyone. They remind us that we are all in the same boat riding through the waves of life together.
We have gone through so much division in this country over the last year and it has worn us down. It certainly has for me. But watching Houstonians from all walks of life helping each other brought a sense of hope that I so desperately needed.
I heard an anchor on CNN say, “the worst of mother nature brought out the best of human nature”. Having a natural disaster hit so close to home has made me rethink my priorities. It has reminded me that I have to do better. This has certainly been one of those transition periods in life for me-where you come out on the other side a little different than before.
What I know now is this:
1) No matter how you do it, reaching out is important.
I get it. It’s hard to know what to say when someone is hurting or scared. So oftentimes we don’t say anything except react to their Facebook status. I’ve been guilty of this. But this isn’t enough. People need us to reach out. Even if it’s a simple text or message asking ‘how are you doing?.
Although I was not directly in the path of the hurricane, the messages I received from those (some whom I had not talked to in years) asking me how my family was doing–was so incredibly heartwarming. In fact, it was these people who inspired me to do the same for others.
When Sheryl Sandberg talked about the isolation she felt after losing her husband, she said this: “You don’t have to be someone’s best friend to show up. We leave people alone when they need us most. Often because we are unsure of what to do.”
No matter how you do it, reach out to others. Even if you are unsure, just take that first step.
2) Material things never last. Our relationships do.
For the past year since we sold our townhouse, our main focus has been on looking for a neighborhood where we will buy our future house (I do realize how privileged we are that we can even think about buying a house in Los Angeles). I’m embarrassed actually-because I’ve been so consumed this year with what I call ‘the house hustle’.
And then I watched my friends lose their entire homes. Not just parts of their homes, but their entire homes…gone in one evening. I cannot even begin to imagine what that feels like-to deal with the trauma of seeing the house you have lived in under water.
But even amidst their heartbreak, there was tremendous relief. Relief in the fact that their loved ones were still with them—many carrying them through these hard times.
In these last few weeks, I have been reminded that material things don’t last. They never will. It’s our relationships that do. And the best house for my family is the one that affords us time—time with each other and time to travel to see those that matter the most to us.
3) True healing comes in helping
I saw the same scene time and time again. A person or family was stranded in their homes and a group of strangers on boats arrived to save them. No questions asked. Just extending their arms out in the spirit of humanity. It brought me to tears every time.
What if we did that in our everyday lives? What if we helped people as urgently as the people on boats did for their neighbors?
When we are lost in our own emotions—whether we are going through loneliness or heartache—we can often feel like we are stranded alone in our own home. This is when we should reach out and help another. By shifting our focus onto someone else, we realize how connected we all are. Our healing comes in helping.
Before jobs, children, mortgage payments and responsibility, I was a young girl that just wanted to save the world. I now understand how vital and necessary that attitude was to my well-being. Now, more than ever, I am striving to make service a part of my daily life.
I have to admit, this hurricane shook me. I wish it never happened. But in this tremendous darkness, I am grateful to have seen small rays of incredible light.
With much love to all of the incredible people of Houston #HoustonStrong ❤️