Author’s Note: there is so much to be said, and this post feels feels so small. But it’s a start. Be safe, y’all.
In an effort to make sense of this, I’ve also provided 3 things to do when the world is scary.
One of the things I have always loved about Houston is that it was someplace where the American Dream still seemed possible. I arrived in Houston when I was 24 years old, an emotional child burdened by college debt and without a resume to speak of, but with a spark of hope that I might be able to make something of myself here. Houston welcomed me with open arms and set me on the path towards a happy and successful adulthood.
I will always be thankful for that. If you want somewhere to settle down and raise your children, I would tell friends, you can do that here. Come to Houston, get your financial feet under you, buy a house, start a business. It all seemed possible here–or at least, more possible than in other parts of the country. I truly believed that Houston was a kind of safe haven for those who were willing to work hard.
There is No Such Thing as a Safe Haven
It has been in a state of shock that I have spent much of this week watching the chaos Hurricane Harvey has dropped on Houston’s streets. While I am so lucky that I moved away from downtown a year ago, and so my immediate vicinity has been largely-unaffected by the storm, I have friends who are trapped by water, have been evacuated, or have lost their homes, and there’s no telling yet how much more rain is coming our way.
The knowledge that some of my favorite places are under ten or more feet of water is heart-breaking and surreal, and the reports that it might take months for the water to drain are staggering. Seeing friends report their fear on social media as the water inches closer, sometimes followed by the loss of the homes they have spent much of their adult lives working for, is heart-breaking. And the knowledge that, beyond donating to the emergency relief cause, there’s nothing I can do, because my presence on the roads would just add to the burden of our already-beleaguered emergency response crews, is beyond frustrating.
While I am obviously so grateful that my own life hasn’t been irrevocably damaged by Harvey’s onslaught, I can feel a marked difference inside myself, a sliding towards a realization and weariness and sadness that this is what life is. Life is nursing home residents sitting in four feet of water hoping to be rescued. Life is entire neighborhoods without flood insurance being destroyed and livelihoods being washed away, possibly forever. Life is sitting at home alone when disaster strikes and your family is 2000 miles away. Life is bewilderment and pain and struggle.
What to Do When The World is Scary
It is so easy to let scary news swallow us whole, to focus on that bewilderment and pain and struggle to the exclusion of all else. It is tempting to let our hearts harden against it, to protect ourselves from that bewilderment and pain by becoming cynical and hopeless and taking on a “at least I got mine” attitude. If you don’t have hope and you don’t care about others, you can’t ever be disappointed.
But do you really want to live in a world where everyone has built a shell around themselves? In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, be the change that you wish to see in the world. Live your life the way you would want the world around you to live it, and treat others the way you would want to be treated. How would you want others to respond if your world were falling apart?
If it were me, I would want the world to offer me hope, no matter how small. I would want the world to offer a helping hand. I would want the world to be kind.
And so, in the face of my own helplessness in this mess, I offer you the following food for thought.
How to Find Hope in the Face of Scary News
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard for dealing with natural disasters and scary news is from Mr. Rogers:
Here is some additional guidance from Mr. Rogers on talking to children during scary times, although it’s good guidance for self-care as well.
How to Offer a Helping Hand to Those Affected by Hurricane Harvey
If you would like to donate to Harvey relief, here are some easy and quick options:
- Donate to the Red Cross – Text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also visit redcross.org or call 1- 800-RED CROSS.
- United Way – Text UWFLOOD to 41444 to donate to the United Way Flood Relief Fund
How to Be Kind in the Face of a Natural Disaster
At times like this, be kind to yourself and others, regardless of whether or not they’ve been directly affected by this week’s events. Practice self-care so you can help take care of others when you need to. Check in with those who might be scared or lonely.
Imagine that you had gone through what others are currently going through, and live your life the way you would want others to live it. Practice gratitude for what you have. Draw your people close.
Keep your heart open, and I’ll try to do the same. Much love.