Disasters bring out the best in Americans

Published 4:40 pm Monday, September 4, 2017

This Labor Day will find many Americans in need and hurting. At the same time, many will not be celebrating the final holiday of the summer with a picnic or parade, but will be on the front lines in Eastern Texas helping with the rescue and clean-up operations as the result of a devastating hurricane, which has left thousands homeless and the fourth largest city in the nation under water.
Never before has our nation seen anything quite like the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey.
As Texans and the nation awakened to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, we saw the enormous emotional and physical challenges left behind — thousands of people without power, many lacking running water, highways and streets turned into rivers, homes and cars submerged in water, schools closed, businesses closed, jobs lost. Thousands and thousands have been left homeless and are being housed in shelters not only in Houston, but in other Texas cities.
Just as Americans have witnessed the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, they have also witnessed the outpouring of love and kindness of strangers to temper the blow. There have been ceaseless reports of acts of kindness. People in boats, rafts, canoes, and helicopters have been there day and night rescuing people and pets from their flooded homes.
Across the affected region, people have been pouring in to Houston to help. Others have sent donations. It has been an experience of people coming together, helping one another, offering a shoulder to cry on, and an extended hand. As opposed to just days earlier when people were rioting and demonstrating in Charlottesville, Va., it has been different in Houston. There have been stories of even furniture stores taking in homeless families, people of all races holding hands, crying together, praying together, laying side by side on cots in makeshift shelters.
Disasters such as the one in Houston this week often serve as reminders that everyone is dependent on their friends and neighbors and that those relationships need not be mediated by the state. They are mediated by love and caring hearts. Disasters like Harvey — and the disasters of the past — prove that the immediate response to disaster is not individualist or state driven, but rather created by local people helping each other. That cooperation and solidarity, visible after disasters, can also make ordinary lives richer and more resilient.
There are many things that divide us — politics, religion, race — but if there is something to be learned from Hurricane Harvey, it is that natural disasters force people to put their differences and their daily routines aside and come together to help each other in the presence of a much larger nature coming down on us.
It’s a lesson our political leaders could learn from. Their time will come as Texans will need help from our government to recover, and they, too, must put aside their differences to aid in the recovery process.

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