Last week I did something a bit different by way of this space. I stepped a bit sideways from my comfort zone and what’s become familiar and I spoke from my heart.
Truth be told, that’s how I approach the keyboard each and every week, regardless of topic. Each and every time, however, I try and find an angle to a story or column which I find relatable, informative, inspiring or a combination of a few.
But last week, well, last week was different in that I put a bit more of my personal self on the page not as a Mommy columnist but as a community member troubled by inaccurate media representation. That was big … for me. I’m a ‘live and let live’ kinda girl, that is until you threaten my peeps (aka my tribe or community).
The piece was well received by a large cross section of people, which I appreciated hearing from. We live in a day and age where people struggle to return a text in a timely manner, so receiving phone calls and e-mails of appreciation are not lost on me.
Human kindness is alive and well. That was my proclamation during last week’s staff meeting as I recounted the blood-boiling effects that prompted that column, versus the beauty of humanity we were witnessing via Hurricane Harvey.
As we discussed it as a staff, I shared a few photos and texts I received from a friend who happens to be a First Responder and was in Katy, Texas as part of a Task Force deployed from the Bay Area. His heartfelt thoughts and feelings of being overwhelmed were not lost on me for one minute.
As a journalist he and I had often talked about reporting to fires and his ability to turn off and go into work mode, to do what he was trained for and implement resolve of a situation. Harvey, however, was different. California First Responders, more specifically Task Force Teams are trained in varying areas beyond the traditional scope.
Preparing, however, to drive into a city under water after 31 hours on the road, that’s a bit different. As he journeyed along a barren highway via police escort, I was trusted with his emotion. Yes, even a firefighter can get caught off guard and get choked up. The outpouring of community support and involvement was more than he was prepared to see.
“I’m getting choked up just caravanning there,” he said via text last Tuesday.
“This is so frickin unreal,” he continued. “All these neighborhoods are flooded. Families just carrying what they can.”
Granted, all of these could be seen on television. His words aren’t groundbreaking information. What was, was the fact lost on neither one of us, that just weeks before we watched a country divided in hate. A country, via community now pulling together for the greater good of those in need.
By Saturday we talked by phone and he reported of little sleep, good food and amazing hospitality by all in the area. Even amidst all the ruin and destruction, slowly this Bay Area native was growing fond of this place known as Texas. The beauty of the people superseded what he could not see which was covered by water.
But what can we do? That was the question I sent to him Sunday. As someone who was there and seeing the need and want first hand, where could we help?
Here’s what he shared:
Listed as the number one donation site was Houston Flood Relief Fund on youcaring.com originated by J.J. Watt. This site was offered to him by many locals that he built bonds with early on during the task force week long journey.
Others had noted rather than send used items of clothing, blankets and the like to send Gift Cards. One quote shared was, “With a gift card you feel empowered, with a used blanket you feel like a victim.” That hit me and also made sense. One recipient of Gift Cards to be distributed is: Donation Management Coordinator at Berean SDA Church, ATTN: Velma Thomas, P.O. Box 1300, Houston, Texas, 77251.
In short, we all do what we can with what we have. My hope is that as a society we remember what we are made of. We put aside the hate which has infested so much of our every day. We remember the media’s ability to highlight and target what will keep viewers captivated and then we listen to our hearts. There is a tremendous amount of good in this world. Natural disaster has a crazy way of reminding us of this.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.