Part of my childhood I lived in Houston. We were there in 1983 when Hurricane Alicia hit the city hard, spawning some of the worst hurricane-related tornados. In fact, I am pretty sure that a tornado spun right down our driveway. Not even a teenager, I was more than frightened during the storm and in my earliest views of the aftermath. With downed trees cluttering our yard, flood waters racing down our streets, and power out for days, things were far from normal.
What quickly became normal was neighbors helping neighbors. Strangers helping strangers. I remember when the sun came out the next morning an older couple from across the street brought my parents a cup of coffee they brewed on their camp stove. I remember chains wrapped around fallen trees muscled out of the ground with Texas-sized pickup trucks driven without a thought of the miles being stripped off the new tires. I remember block parties where we grilled for hours trying to cook meat that would otherwise spoil. People gave freely of whatever they had—food, water, manpower, a kind word. We just took care of one another.
I know the same is true in Houston today, although I am certain that the devastation is far worse and the clean-up will take far longer. People are simply helping people. During the most trying circumstances, we fall back to the most basic level of our existence—we are just people without descriptors of race, gender, religion, or political ideology. Just people.
And for those of us watching Houston from afar, we have a chance to show our best humanity as well. Although we will not strip wet carpeting or pull down soggy drywall, we can make a monetary donation to support this relief effort. Ultimately, money is the best gift we can give at this stage.
I know we all want assurance that our money will get to the right place; be used well. We have all heard the stories of other disasters where dollars were not maximized. Sadly, this can happen. However, I believe that relief-focused non-profit organizations, like individuals, rise to give their best to others in times of need.
I urge you not to get caught up in how many donated dollars directly touch relief efforts. I ask you to keep in mind that well-orchestrated relief efforts take strong technology; smart and well-trained staff and volunteer leaders; access to transport vehicles; and much, much more. This type of infrastructure takes money to build and to operate. I ask you to trust.
Trust that the organizations you choose to support will use the dollars you give to provide the most impactful help possible in the most efficient way they can. Trust that at the end of the day, these organizations are comprised of people who want to help other people. People who have been called to this work not for riches or fame, but because of their expertise, skills, and experience in leading relief efforts. Trust that these compassionate, hard-working people know how to maximize the resources at hand and that more than anything else, they too want to help.
And, if you think giving things—water, clothing, building materials, might help more than money, please think again. Giving money will absolutely have the greatest possible impact. Read this CBS news article for a strong reminder of the dangers of giving things to relief efforts.
Now is the time to trust—just like neighbors and strangers on the ground are trusting and helping one another without counting the costs. We too must give generously, without counting the cost. Godspeed, Texas!