Gratitude

I have been visiting to help my friends and neighbors after Hurricane Harvey brought biblical amounts of rainfall to our area (9 trillion gallons, new records for the entire country -thanks Mother Nature who I am currently not on speaking terms with any longer.)

Sometimes I bring food, sometimes supplies, always advice and resources they can use as many are first time flooded. I am grateful most of us are physically unharmed, though emotionally is another story – one I wrote two blogs about to make people understand how fragile many are right now. All linked.

What has bowled me over, other than some in tears by off-handed comments that hurt their very traumatized feelings, is their sense of gratitude at all the helpers and people donating and lending a hand. In a city with 4 million people or so, out of the 50,000 who have lost their home, there are still a lot of people left intact, and many of them are volunteering.

Although our garage was flooded, drywall needing to be removed, and all the high up stored memorabilia pushed up and over by the water and current (including our oldest photo albums – watery messes now, will post photos later), our cleanup and losses were a piece of cake when compared with others. For that, I am giving of myself, and for that I am grateful. I am grateful for our new home, which I kicked and fought, but it is downsized, and perfect, and built well to withstand a storm of crazy proportions.

I am grateful for our caring community in Houston, it never ceases to amaze me and is one of the reasons I have made my permanent home here all of my adult life.

I recently posted a photo of a long line of people in downtown Houston, not waiting for supplies, food, or shelter, but instead waiting to volunteer at one of our huge shelters.

(By the way, my next blog will address what happens next after the shelter for those who would like to be educated on that.)

At any rate, my gratitude post from 2015, still applies today, and please read as so many others are feeling the same way as expressed to me through the long days I have visited them.

6/2015 -While cleaning out from the flood, I had a day filled with such intense gratitude, that I had to write about that.

Our local JCC, and the various Chabad communities, local churches, and other social service agencies have been amazing at getting all affected residents what we need to pack – and getting us helpers to pack. There isn’t a day that goes by since this began, that I don’t have a friend or two or three or four picking up bins, boxes, bubble wrap, tape, and cleaning supplies for me. Oh, and they bring water, lots of water. I am exposed daily to living angels helping us get what we need without having to do extra errands or schlepping.

The sweat labor that has been performed for us is nothing short of miraculous. Just one example is the living angel that brought heavy duty large plastic bins and bubble wrap and proceeded to wrap my china and crystal and every other safe and clean knick-knack away in these bins – about twenty of them! I was so worried about my “stuff” and this woman who I didn’t even know, was my rescuer. They are safe and sound and solidly packed thanks to this incredible woman.

Teams of volunteers have come in and packed up room after room, closet after closet, helped us sanitize what was salvagable and even labeled for us.

Then there are the meals. Meal, after meal delivered to our door. (We have declined all of the many invitations we received to go out to eat at a home or event as we don’t have a spare second to do that — see above for manic pace of packing house up.)

For someone who has an 88 year old dad living with us making me responsible for his every meal, and with food being his number one interest and priority in life – “What’s for dinner today” is his favorite expression – this is unbelievably appreciated. We get to eat and don’t have to stop our manic pursuit of getting everything wet out and packing up anything salvagable.

As if I didn’t have enough angels in my life right now in the form of friends and community, helping us in every way possible, suddenly there are gift cards appearing at my home. I am sitting here with a little stack of gift cards for meals and other things that we might need. There are people out there, who are collecting these, and either paying for them, or getting them donated from stores, and going from house to house distributing them.

Since our kitchen is going to be non-functional for the forseeable future, these little dandies assure me of getting dad his meals without extra expense to any of us. I can’t tell you what that has meant to me – and I must say, I always thought I was too proud to accept that kind of charity and also, I never thought I would need that kind of charity. (And without dad around, that would still be the case.) It is the kind of thing that is so helpful and makes our very difficult circumstances a bit easier. When our personal friends and Chabad friends tire of bringing us meals, we will be able to use these.

I am in awe of the fact that people are going around, using their own funds to help in this way, or getting donations from businesses, and then they spend their precious time delivering them and declining to take no for an answer when they see the heaping piles of ruined belongings in front of your home. I am just filled with gratitude that there are so very many good people in our community.

Loving messages of concern from near and far have me registering that I am so extraordinarily fortunate to have so many caring people in my life.

I am grateful that I can put my feelings into words that resonate and mean something to people and I am thankful for all the wonderful comments telling me that my writing helps them cope. What a gift that I can actually help someone going through this awful situation, while I am being helped through it by others.

In fact, I have been told that I am the voice of my community as I am blogging this difficult post flood journey fraught with red tape and frustration, for all to share. Here are just two recent messages:

Even though you articulate your rage and frustration so eloquently and are loved by so many, it is understandable that after having a lifetime together building a beautiful home and family you feel overwhelmed having it destroyed and threatened in such a reckless, meaningless, and savage way.

And… You are inspiring many people around the world … Sharing your personal thoughts , experiences , problems , conflicts , and hard times etc.. have a huge impact on every person who reads your blogs

Last, I heard from a United Way representative today because my number one concern and heartache lately has been where to put my dad during this chaos. We don’t have the time or mental capacity to fill out a bunch of paperwork to get him in a safe and temporary place and though my husband and I might stay in the house, dad can’t. The United Way is sending a case manager to come and help us complete some sort of process to get dad in temporary quarters. When you are completely and utterly overwhelmed with your circumstances, someone stepping in to find out answers and solutions is an absolute precious gift.

It is nice to take a break from being overwhelmed, exhausted, dusty, and grief-stricken, to drink in this gratitude.

I am in tears while I write this blog – so deep is my gratitude. I wish I could hug every angel out there that has helped us through this daunting process, but I can’t except for with my words.

It’s one thing for your family and friends to come through for you, but it is extra humbling to have strangers come, and with the utmost care, lighten your load. For anyone out there who was among my personal angels, you will never, ever know how thankful I am for your part in this and for entering my life, even if it was for a brief but critical moment.

5 comments

  • Thanks Arlene. You’re terrific. Gary did a great job.

  • What you and your community are going through is devastating. I am particularly sorry for your father. The elderly are so emotionally affected by this kind of upheaval in their lives. As you said, “What are we having for dinner” is their primary and primal concern. I hope he is well and that you get the assistance you need for him

    • Hi and thanks so much for reading and writing in. Yes, you cannot even imagine this devastation. My gratitude portion of the post has a timeline on it of two years ago, when we went through it with my dad in tow. Now this time we did not flood and are helping others. So many in need. My dad moved into an independent living place that he loves so much and they also did not flood so he is doing great. His meals never stopped and that is a good thing, because you were right about the primal need and concern. TG his independent living place was unscathed. So fortunate about that.

  • Gratitude is the healthy expression that can supplant the “woe-is-me” feeling that makes for an unhealthy expression, long term. I think that focusing on the positive, such as gratitude yields a healthy recovery.

  • Thanks for all you and Gary are doing to help others:). You have been in their place so you know more than anyone what is needed. May God Bless You Always:):):)

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