When Hurricane/Storm Harvey lashed and flooded Texas, a lot of heroes stepped up – everybody from first responders to the Cajun Navy, bringing over boats from Louisiana, to doctors who used the Nextdoor social media platform to say where they were for neighbors in need, and many more. A California veterinarian heard about the storm and immediately set out for Houston knowing there would be many lost and injured pets.
Today, perched on the brink of a new year with its own unforeseen challenges and disasters, we should acclaim another kind of Harvey hero. These are the people who opened their doors to sodden family, neighbors and friends. I heard about a single man in a well-elevated two-story house who checked on his elderly next-door neighbors, found them shivering in high water, and brought them into his home, where they stayed for weeks. A couple who are friends of mine took refuge with her parents (i.e., his inlaws) for two months while they got their house livable. A first-floor neighbor in my complex moved in with a dear friend for three months while her place was being rehabilitated. A woman I know who has cats took in a colleague with more cats. Fortunately, the cats figured out how to coexist!
A lady I met at a Christmas concert told me that she and her husband have had another couple, neighbors and longtime friends who need to raise their flooded house several feet higher, living with them since Harvey. This nice lady told me she’s very much enjoying these unexpected housemates. For one thing they moved their espresso-maker in with them and the quality of morning coffee has been superb. For another and more important thing, the formerly empty nest (three kids off to school and adulthood) is now lively with friendly people.
I’m sure there have been households full of gritted teeth while overcrowded with incompatible relatives. Still, they did the right thing. Meanwhile I suspect that in more households than we’ll ever know about, people found good fellowship, better neighbors than they knew they had, warmer family ties, or pleasure in not living alone. In a society that tends to atomize everybody, the terrible storm created some new and resilient social molecules. It had a silver lining.