kindness and connection as quiet activism
One of the things that was a beautiful byproduct of the flooding in Houston last fall was how much my faith in humanity was restored. In the days when we could finally get back into our house, after the floodwaters receded and we were standing in the muck sort of stunned and spinning around in circles trying to figure out what needed to be done, scores of strangers showed up at our front door to help. Literally dozens of people. Many of them were local Houstonians -- folks who were lucky enough to escape devastation to their own homes and who were steeped in what they called "survivor's guilt," so they felt had to get out and see what they could do to help. But a considerable number of them weren't Houstonians: more than once we'd open our door to people who said things like, "We're from Dallas," or "We're from Austin," and who had just driven in for the day to see what they could do, before driving 3-5 hours back home in the evening. One gentleman and his group of friends had driven all the way from New Orleans: "You Houstonians were so good to us during Katrina," he said, "driving in to help y'all was the least we could do."
Amazing. I'd love to say that had I been in their shoes I would've done the same thing, but I'm not sure that's entirely true. If we had been one of the lucky Houstonians who'd escaped flooding, sure, we would've definitely gotten in our cars to help; but if we'd lived hours away? Frankly, I think it would've been far more likely that we'd have written a cheque to the Red Cross, and considered that the least we could do. I'm not necessarily proud of this, but it's honest. That people gassed up their cars and loaded them up with cleaning supplies and fresh water and work boots and gloves, drove hundreds of miles into a disaster zone, only to help complete strangers, turn back around and drive those hundreds of miles home, expecting absolutely nothing in return? I still get emotional thinking about it. And that's even before I get to all of the amazing supplies and gifts that people sent us in the days after we were displaced (it's five months later, and we still haven't had to buy bleach or tea or guitar picks -- that's how generous you all were).
It's for this reason that I have very little bitterness or anger around the flood -- because honestly, in many ways, I feel so saved. In a year that was marked by white supremacists marching in college towns, and travel bans prohibiting people from visiting the country solely based on their religion, and women being harassed and assaulted and ... and ... and ... well, to be frank, I was really starting to lose faith in people as a whole. The experience of witnessing people dropping everything to help each other through Harvey, without any regard to anything other than seeing each other as brothers and sisters who needed help? Well, it made me begin to believe that perhaps, just perhaps, there were more good people than bad in the world. It was a relief. It was a joy.
And because of this, I'm so much more aware of even the kindest little actions or gestures of connection. For example, this week, I received the handmade mug in the photo above from my friend Jenny Ingram. It came to my mailbox completely out of the blue, with a note that said, "for tea or coffee or just plain water or whiskey or ...;) For now, and when you're settled in your new, dry home." I was so touched by this. It was a lovely little reminder that the smallest kindness or mindful connection can feel like a moment of quiet activism: a moment that says "I see you, ugliness of the world, but you're not going to win in my world today."
So here's wishing you some kindness, friends -- both the giving and the receiving of it.
Peace and sparkles, indeed.