Harvey: A Year later

A year ago today, I was at home listening to the rain fall, watching my street fill with water, and monitoring Harvey. At our house, we filled the bathtub, stocked up on food, and sat glued to the TV coverage of the storm, hanging on to the calm Jeff Lindner’s periodic reports. When tornado warnings put our house in its path, I put water and flashlights in our safest room. When water started coming through our roof, we were just grateful it was not coming through our front door.

It was a lot like another time, years before, when I stayed up all night listening to the rain as Tropical Storm Allison dumped more than 24 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. But this time, I was more connected. (I didn’t even have a cell phone when Allison arrived.) During Harvey, I was on my phone all night, texting with family and friends, refreshing the news, and checking Facebook.

When a friend texted me Sunday afternoon to say that the City was going to open up the George R. Brown as a shelter and could Scott and I make it there with diapers and formula before it opened, we didn’t hesitate to say yes. In the next hours and days we did what we could to help.

The outpouring of help and support during Harvey remains its definition for many Houstonians — from airboats to dump trucks to canoes, neighbors helped neighbors get to safety. And once there, neighbors arrived up with dry clothes, warm meals, and spare bedrooms for those in need.

Early on, I saw one great piece of advice — widely circulating on Facebook posts — about what to do in scary, uncertain times like these: just show up.

Of all the things we learned in Harvey, that little bit of advice made a big impact.

We went from delivering diapers, to relocating elderly evacuees, to delivering food, to mucking out houses, to sorting donations, to making up shelter beds. We didn’t always know what we would do when we arrived, but we knew we could help somehow, and we showed up.

When there are problems to solve, when there are people in need, when there is work to do: you don’t need to wait to be asked to help, and you don’t need to know exactly what to do, you just need to be there to do what you can. Even when the task at hand is overwhelming, we can accomplish so much when we work together.

I saw that during Harvey. And I have seen it every day since. Because we have real problems to solve in our community and in our country. And people across this community — and the country — are showing up to help. That’s as true of this moment in our political lives as it is of Harvey. You don’t need to have canvassed, phone-banked, or worked the polls before to help now. Just show up.

Working together, we can do anything.