Harvey swept across Texas and Louisiana in a literal whirlwind, and stayed. For so many days people watched water creep it’s way into their homes, the homes of their neighbors, family and friends. Communities shut down. People kept in touch with each other via various technological devices. Rescues via boat, helicopter, and open arms were bigger than the storm. For days, and honestly, I can’t really even tell you how many, I watched Coast Guard and Navy helicopters fly across our back yard, knowing what they meant. Someone else was in trouble and help was on the way. With every single chopper, I’d think the same thing, “Please let them be okay, too.”
I don’t know if you could be in the city and not have been changed, forever, by the events that unfolded. Whether you were directly affected by the winds, the floods, or the storms that continued, or indirectly affected as the experienced the knowledge of people you love being torn from their homes by rising waters. Either way, Harvey’s presence isn’t one that will soon, if ever, be forgotten.
It’s what has happened after Harvey that will also stay with me forever. The outpouring of love, literally flooding the city with kindness, and literally coming over the people of Houston like a wave of absolute support. It’s THAT which I will forever marvel at.
I honestly couldn’t wait to return to school. Maybe it was for the normalcy it would provide. Maybe it was to see colleagues I’d been incredibly worried about. Maybe it was to hug the kids in our community. Probably all of those things. But the week we returned, I walked into a classroom and a student hugged me and said, “Was your home okay?” I nodded, “Yours?” and she nodded. And we both smiled at each other. It was a hello smile, a happy to see you smile, an “I’m so glad you are okay,” smile. It was empathy, deep and alive. It honestly makes tears form in my eyes when I think about it. For we all know too well here, there are so many who are not okay just yet. They are grateful to be alive, grateful to have each other, and at the same time– hard at work to rebuild their lives. Normal will never be the same, but Houston will reach a “new normal” as we all try to figure out what that looks like and for those of us who still have a bit of normal, we’ll work hard to help others find theirs.
For me, every single moment now feels bigger. I honestly though they already were as big as possible. You cannot work with children and fail realize the size of each moment. Kids have a way of reminding us. Relationships in education are everything. I know that. I knew that. We all know that. I now know it on a level I can’t truly describe. Every conversation with a kid, every talk with a colleague, every little bit of every single day. Because in those little tiny, itty bitty bits of life we can find the biggest, most gigantic amounts of good. Ginormous good. If there were a rating scale for good, this kind is beyond Category 5. Off the charts.
I suppose, after all this, I’ve learned, or been reminded deeply, of something. It’s those times in our lives that are the worst, hardest, and most difficult… the storms… that change us. For it’s those same stories that end with some sort of good, some raw unfiltered joy that lands there. The only way I can even describe it are the words of the brilliant Leonard Cohen, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Harvey may have left a crack in the city of Houston, but nobody was prepared for the light that would flow in.