August 31, 2017

A Few Harvey Observations

The last few days have been long and emotionally draining. On the other hand, it's been good for the soul to see the compassionate response of so many people. I had to give myself permission to stop yesterday, take a nap and really process all I had seen in less than a week. Here are a few observations from the last few days. And these are simply my observations. This is my first tropical storm. I am not an expert. But this is what I see:

For those running temporary programs of assistance, appreciate your volunteers even though there is a glut of them right now. This is not meant to imply this isn't happening. It most certainly is. But I imagine that volunteer coordinators are near exhaustion and frustrated at this point. That said, people who are housed and can go back to work or school, will go back to work or school soon. The recovery will lose its attraction after the hashtags and selfies at shelters trend wanes. We have but a brief moment to capture their hearts and convert as many as we can to long term volunteers and advocates.

Lots of people want to help and this is amazing. I checked in on several shelters in the city yesterday and there were mountains of donations and an incredible amount of volunteers. A few tips from my observation: early morning, late evening and overnight are when most shelters are needing people. If you can, pick a place you can go back to with some routine. Imagine being on the receiving end of this service; seeing a familiar face is more comforting than a stream of anonymous faces.

The donations are streaming in like crazy! A week ago, grocery store shelves were empty because folks were stocking up. Now they are empty because people are giving to those in need around them. It's awesome! But most facilities I've spoken with have more than enough of most things right now. Though, no one seems to ever have enough beds, bedding, feminine hygiene products and diapers, for kids and adults. There are also a lot of special medical needs that general first aid donations don't meet. I'm not the best person to answer this but it would seem to me that, at this juncture, since deliveries can get to most areas now, donating money and allowing the experts to purchase what is needed is smarter than shipping donations. In most cases.

As of last night, people were still being rescued. It's not over. But the recovery has begun at the same time. Houses are getting cleaned out so that they can dry, mitigating further damage, so that rebuilding can happen. Organize your work teams, call your friends and organizations you know of that are connected on the ground here and start planning your trips to the area. It will be needed for a long time. We, as a nation, have been through enough storms in recent history that many organizations know exactly what kind of materials are needed for this kind of work. Brooke and I plan to host as many of our friends, families and churches from the variety of traditions we are connected to that want to come out and help clean up and repair lives.

If you doubted that white privilege, white supremacy, is a thing all you would have to do is look at the vast majority of people in shelters right now with nothing, nowhere and no one to go to. People continue to say how floods are a great equalizer and to a certain degree this is true. Desperate need is desperate need. Yet, in my observation, the number of flood victims in the most desperate condition that happen to be people of color far surpasses those that are white. This speaks to a system that is not equitable. I don't have the answers but I can see it, name it and confess that I am complicit with the brokenness of the culture we've created. I'm not bringing racism into this disaster. It was already there before Harvey hit us.

Time to get back to it but let me say one last important thing. We all need to take care of ourselves. This recovery is not going to end anytime soon. Eat well. Get the rest you need. Enjoy your cup of coffee in the morning. Laugh and play with your kids. Read a book. Exercise. Spend time with your people, your community. We will be leaning into this for a long time. By taking care of ourselves, we better ensure the endurance we will need. In addition to the routines we normally have, we'll be adding to those routines mucking houses, feeding people, etc. So, care for your body and soul so you can stay the course.

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