How is it that in the midst of our deepest trials, during the times when we feel stripped down to absolutely nothing, that we could possibly give thanks? Where does gratitude exist in times of what seems like non-existence – when no one fully comprehends the impact of what it means to be homeless except for those living without a roof over their head?
In the week that I was assigned to report on Hurricane Harvey and its devastation in Houston, my hometown, I was reminded simply yet fervently of the answer: grace.
The characters in this story were a group of volunteers not only from the Dioceses of Brooklyn, but also from California and the eastern sands of Israel – all gathered in the Lone Star State to help with the weight of their neighbor’s burdens. We started off as strangers, but by the end of each day, we were more a team.
Until I landed in Houston, I only saw the devastation from a TV screen or social media. I was unsure what to expect. I was open to what was going to be revealed. What I saw was the goodness in humanity. Stories unfolded about when the floodwaters raged, it was time to help and people did just that.
I recall what was said to me by a Texas store owner: “One of the beautiful things about this process is that it hasn’t been about whom you voted for or what color of skin you are or what side of the tracks you live on, it’s just like ‘man we’re all in this together.’ We’re in life together and we can overcome amazing things when we all work together.”
Time after time, the people who saw us volunteers would give thanks, offer to buy our food or give us a smile and sometimes a Texas-size hug (it’s kind of like a bear hug).
As my team left for the airport, I shared this message with them and now share it with you. One of the team leaders from an organization we partnered with told me to be open to the emotions that will occur after this trip, as if once the hustle and bustle ends when we’re not putting on a hard hat and tearing down sheetrock or hitting the Texas highways for a gas-station run, that in our quiet moments maybe the impacts will be felt by us individually.
I definitely feel it.
Service to the ‘least of them’ as the Bible says, changes us if we allow it to, if we are open to the grace. It’s like everything is new, seeing through goggles of gratitude and Christ’s mercy.
While our country is suffering divisions right now, we need to remember good exists – through a child’s smile or laughter between your family members. Maybe we can retreat to the moments in small town Wharton, Texas, and be reminded that love conquers all.
While we all cannot answer the physical call to action for our neighbors, would we dare trade our own self-bravado for tenderness, our own self-vanity for humility, our self-woes for a surplus of wonder? Can we train our tongues to give life rather than death with what we didn’t say? I sit and wonder not knowing the answer, but recognizing a heart full of gratitude for this mission trip organized by DeSales Media.