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:: h o ( U S ) t o n

With any trip I embark upon in my life, it usually begins with planning. Be it plans made weeks, a month or a year in advance, any adventure I find myself on is usually not by a whim. Now, this is not to say, I never take impromptu trips. On the contrary, I do. However, in comparison to trips planned, I go on far less “spur of the moment trips.” So, like any of my usual trips, my trip to Houston, Texas, was planned out months in advance. In doing so, an agreement is understood that changes to the trip may arise. It is an agreement I am usually okay with making. Given, at times, it does result in more funds being needed, yet, it is never anything that will “break” any plans, except for maybe the arrival of a natural disaster. Just weeks prior to flying out to Houston, Texas — mind you, a state I had not been to since prior to Hurricane Katrina back in 2005 — Hurricane Harvey blew right on through Texas. Like an ugly flashback of Hurricane Katrina, Houston, Texas found itself under the murky storm waters Hurricane Harvey brought with him. Surprised and not fully prepared for the destruction that followed, Houston became the new ‘New Orleans’: battered but STILL thriving. It was in that ability to thrive, where and why my peers and myself decided to continue with our plans to visit Houston. Initially deemed a trip for the turn-up of the century in honor of our dear friend turning twenty-six, we modified our plans to include a day in which we turned down to give back to a community in need. With a little bit of research, we found ourselves the grand opportunity to volunteer for Hurricane Harvey Relief efforts with the Baker Ripley Organization at the NRG Center in Houston, Texas. Tasked with handing out supplies to the countless individuals and families in need, the reality of the storm’s destruction began to sink in. F. Scott Fitzgerald says in his book, The Beautiful and The Damned, “You’ll understand why storms are named after people.” Humans, like storms are not far off from each other. Both are equally as destructive. Both can tear apart a happy home. Both can be a weight on the feather pleading with the wind to carry it away. Both can rip asunder the wonders of happiness and leave nothing behind but a bleak, dark sadness. Both can and do kill. And in a matter of moments, your entire world can be flipped upon its head. What was once up is down. What was once good is bad. What was once beautiful is ugly. What was once whole is shattered in shards that cut with every attempt to repair. What once was is now no longer. It was in that realization, that the seas of countless people and families, now left homeless, had a new struggle to journey through. A new cross to bear. A new weight to add to the shoulders that may have already been bruised and worn by those they already have in their lives. The thought of it all, was a weight. My heart, that day, was heavy. For them. For the new mountain they had to climb. However, in that moment of darkness, the laughter and smiles the children, of a man with his best friend, of the woman rocking her baby, of the volunteers around me, reminded me of something powerful. Despite that weight, God was there. I could feel it. I could feel Him. The center and the organization, though temporary, hopefully, for many of them, was the silver lining. Providing everything from vet care for those with pets, a daycare for the families who needed a watchful eye for their little bundles of joy, cells phones, food, water, snacks, clothing, supplies and toys for kids, toiletries, books, therapy for those who needed a listening ear, YOU NAME IT, the center provided it. It was remarkable. It was in that moment where I was reminded that humans are still decent beings. That in times of destruction, the hate, the bigotry, the lack of understanding, is all set aside for one common goal: the preservation of life — our most precious gift from God. All hope was NOT lost. Humbled and grateful for the opportunity, even though small in magnitude, I counted my blessings. Looked past my problems and gave my praise to the Lord. Though He may not have promised us a life without stormy weather, He did promise to give us the tools and the light we needed to make it through the storm. He gave us what we needed when we needed it most. He gave us hope. And, truly, what more could we ask for. Leaving that day, I felt renewed. Happy for even just being able to be there and witness the grand feat of simply giving. Truly a life altering moment. And I did it all with my friends. I guess it could be modified to say that not only do great minds think alike, but GREAT HEARTS care the same. I’d do it all again.

:: Post Rationalization(s) “If the ocean can calm itself, so can you. We are both salt water mixed with air.” — Nayyirah Waheed —

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