This is my first blog post since Hurricane Harvey hit land. I’ve struggled to find something to write about in the wake of it’s devastating flood in my city and surrounding areas all along the East coast of Texas. Some of my favorite local bloggers jumped into action to create extensive, helpful lists of ways you can help our city, like Veronika’s Blushing and Lonestar Looking Glass. Authors on other national sites have written “love letters” to Houston, saying “we’re the change our world needs to see,” like Vogue and HuffPost.
With helpful resources already out there and enough praise to elevate the whole city of Houston to Heaven’s gates, I just have to say:
What Houston is doing? It really isn’t that special.
Houston started showing up for each other long before the storm actually hit. Neighbors helped each other board up windows, friends opened their homes to those living in flood zones, and strangers courteously passed cases of water to each other at the local HEB while chatting about what board games we’d turn to when the power finally goes out. Throughout the storm, friends checked in on one another, verifying flooding conditions at each residence and neighborhood, providing driving information via Facebook to strangers needing to evacuate, creating our own version of maps that showed blue drawn on the flooded streets, and continuing to open our homes to each other once flooding commenced. Once the flood surpassed tolerable levels and became the flood of a lifetime that we will never forget, Houston mobilized. Friends with boats started posting their locations and phone numbers, making lists and mapping out how to best make their rounds to anyone taking on water. Strangers joined hands to make human chains to reach people in cars on the verge of being swept away in the current. And, even as we experience some of the brightest, warmest days of our summer, we’re still driving blindly into effected neighborhood and asking strangers how we can help; we’re still flooded with donations, volunteers, and plain ol’ “Southern Hospitality.”
That’s the thing about Houston, we really don’t see this as being extraordinary. This is our normal.
This is how we live day in and day out. Call it Southern Hospitality, but we call it our way of living. It’s the reason I feel more at home in this city than I ever will in my hometown. It’s the reason you can’t get through a grocery shopping trip without telling at least 4 people how your weekend is going and what your son’s name is. It’s the reason that you’ll never change a tire by yourself on the side of the road. It’s the reason that local businesses and local sports teams are showing more “presidential” behavior than anyone elected ever could have.
It’s the reason that Joel Osteen got so much backlash.
Because we expected more. Because that wasn’t up to par with our normal. Because, to us, showing up for each other is not “outstanding,” it’s expected. Because we believe that showing up for each other should be the norm. Because to call yourself a Houstonian is to accept the obligation to this way of living, this “showing up” and doing “more” for each other. So, maybe the world really does have something to learn from us, but it sure as hell isn’t to become “special” like Houston. We’re not special. This behavior should not be held as some kind of outlandish exhibit.
That saying, “Come Hell or high water?” It was around long before the flood. And Houstonians live by it.
If you take anything away from this, let it be that our normal shouldn’t be seen as “special.” Let this be a calling for you to show up for those suffering, whether friend or stranger, black or white, Christian or Muslim before disaster ever teaches you that lesson. If you’re proud of Houston, be proud that we show up for each other daily – not just during a natural disaster. If you want to emulate the culture that Houston is exhibiting, do it in your daily actions, don’t wait for the flood of a lifetime. If you think this is extraordinary, you should see how we treat each other on the daily, when news outlets have long forgotten about us and the bread aisle is fully stocked. Because when we return to normal, however long that takes, we will continue acting out this so-called “special” treatment of each other.