Reflecting on Hurricane Harvey

Here in Houston, we have watched the world rally.

The national news plays a continuous anthem, and it is the words “destruction”, “obliteration”, and “disaster” on a loop. It is difficult for my mom to understand that I, a lowly college student, could somehow be untouched amidst the demolition of homes, cars, and lives. It’s hard for me to understand this as well—just across Main Street, the world is filled with water.

Somehow, there is something good in this.

As fancy high rises and small private homes in all parts of the city experience varying levels of power loss and damage, the unbiased nature of a natural disaster opens our eyes. It does this without us noticing. Those of us who are able gather in troves to head to George R. Brown or other shelters where volunteer work is needed as if it is the most natural thing in the world. It is natural. There is a bustle on the Rice campus as volunteering opportunities circulate and people swarm. The student body swells in the anticipation of meeting someone’s—anyone’s—needs.

For a moment, no one talks about Charlottesville. Our disagreements are about where to volunteer tonight or who to donate our clothing to. We are so consumed with the effort of the world—we ogle at our phones as donations from Ellen Degeneres and Beyoncé filter in—that other things get smaller.

Some things are best understood when explained to a child. Reading The Same Heart by Chris Bridge, I am struck with the simplicity and rightness of the opening lines. “Are we the same or are we different? Could both of these be true?”

These seem to be the questions we are constantly asking ourselves. There is a theory that all stories can be boiled down to seven plot lines. I believe all arguments can be boiled down to this: are we the same, or are we different. Why can’t both of these be true? Despite the dichotomies we imagine, we are all laid bare by the impartial demolition of the hurricane, and we all mobilize in the aftermath.

It is hard to say many positive things about Hurricane Harvey. In the weeks to come, Houston will put itself back together piece by piece, brick by brick, and it will be difficult to reason with the level of ruin.

But here in Houston, we have watched the world rally for us. Some things are best understood when explained to a child. To a child, I would say: this is proof of the same heart.

Bright Sky Press, where Texas Meets Books Heart.