I’m stranded. Well, kinda stranded.
Thousands of people are actually stranded in and around Houston, the city I’m frantically trying to get back to. Except I can’t. I’m stuck in Utah. A two-day work trip transformed into a full week away from my family and friends. All flights are canceled, because Houston’s airports are flooded. Roads have become rivers, so renting a car and driving is out of the question. Roofs have transformed into camp grounds. The preferred method of travel is by boat, mattress, or a lifted F-150. More than 30,000 people will be without shelter. Everything is topsy turvy.
Early last week newscasters and articles were using the words “potentially catastrophic” to describe the magnitude of the situation (which seemed a little excessive at first), and then they ended up quickly deleting “potentially” from their vocabulary when Hurricane Harvey actually did become 100% catastrophic. They’re calling it the 1000 year storm. A ‘zombie hurricane’. There’s a .1% chance of this ever happening again. My family needs me, but the most they get is digital Frank. On the phone daddy. The FaceTimeHusband®.
My wife and two young children are in Cypress, TX braving this monster without me. And I’m here, not able to do ANYTHING. You’ve felt that before, haven’t you? The mixture of frustration and stress that drives you insane? Seriously, the best I can do is clench my fists and refresh Facebook. I’m powerless. Drifting, with no influence or ability to help. On Saturday my wife and children spent more than half of their day huddled in a closet, inundated with tornado warnings. One touched down just outside our subdivision.
My daughters 6th birthday is today, August 30th, but I won’t be home in time to celebrate. It’s physically impossible. The only thing she asked for — was me, there on her birthday. I won’t be.
She woke up this morning and kissed her arms a few times. When my wife asked her what she was doing, she replied “kissing these 5 year old arms goodbye!” Adorable, right? I should’ve been there to laugh with them. To hold them in times of panic. To dance, sing, drain the pool— do husband/daddy stuff.
But I’m here. What feels like a million miles away. Luckily, our home is just fine, the power has been on and they haven’t been flooded out — but they’re stuck too. Just like tens of thousands of other Houstonians trying to hold it together and brace for what’s next.
But this isn’t about me. It’s about you. It’s about all of us, and what we do — as humans — when things like this happen. When tragedy strikes, we become heroic. We join forces and act in a very anti-darwinian manner. We fight to help the helpless. We seek to maintain the survival of all people. We push past our fears and hone in, together, to meet a need.
We ignore everything that usually distracts us, and all the stupid little things that fill in the gaps gets tossed out. Even work stuff — especially work stuff. It’s all put in it’s place, off to the side. A distraction set in it’s corner.
Our focus changes: Family first. People first. Lives over likes.
We haven’t lost this ability. Contrary to popular belief, our empathy for others hasn’t been numbed or dampened by cell phones, Netflix, or video games. When it’s time for us to pivot away from trivialities, we pivot. Hard. Once the switch is flipped it can’t be un-flipped until the deed is done. It’s incredible. Humanity, for all it’s imperfections, instinctively knows when playtime is over.
And I wish — more than anything — that I could stand alongside you right now and do what needs to be done. I’ve seen it on the news, heard it first hand from my family, and read story after story of regular people doing extraordinary things for neighbors they’ve never met. A hard pivot into resourcefulness, bravery, and sacrifice. Even if you’re not in Houston, there are many ways to help.
Nice try Harvey. You haven’t broken our spirits — you’ve unleashed our superpowers.
I’ll be home soon, ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work. Lemme hug my wife and kids first, then we’re all yours, Houston.