Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

When the Rain Wouldn’t Stop

A hand extended into the falling rain

There are no words. But I’m going to try to come up with some.

Houston, my hometown and current home, along with much of Southeast Texas and parts of Louisiana, have been ravaged by Hurricane Harvey. The storm has dumped some 24.5 trillion gallons of rain on the region, which, according to this Washington Post article, would be enough to cover all of Arizona in a foot of water.

The current death toll sits at 38, and by the time this is published, I’m sure that figure will have risen.

But somehow, someway, I have come out of this disaster unscathed.

And I’m not sure how to feel about that.

Over the last five days, my wife and I have huddled in our home, safe and dry, as the world around us slipped off its axis.

Walk (or swim) a mile or two in any direction, and you’ll encounter a literal sea of devastation — submerged streets, destroyed houses, precious possessions and keepsakes lost forever.

Yet there we’ve sat, on our own little island of good fortune.

When the rains were at their worst, both ends of our block flooded and water crept over our curb. But it never threatened our front door.

There was that time when we lost power. But that turned out to be part of a controlled shutdown, as workers repaired an issue in another section of our neighborhood. The electricity was restored within an hour.

Mostly, we’ve spent our time on the couch, beneath warm blankets, eating from our stocked pantry and refrigerator and enjoying cult classics like “Empire Records” and “Dazed and Confused.”

And between episodes of “Orange is the New Black,” we’ve of course watched the local storm coverage.

The images we’ve seen have run the gamut, from the horror of those being displaced from their homes to the inspiring sight of a sheriff’s deputy carrying two children to safety. There’s even been some comic relief, like when that grandmother was rescued by jet ski.

But the one thing these images have in common is the question they’ve all forced me to ask:

Why me?

I’m sure there are plenty in Houston asking themselves that, though for a different reason.

But it’s now been nearly a week, and I still don’t have an answer.

My guess is that’s because there isn’t one.

There’s no other way to say it: I have no more deserved my fate than the thousands of less fortunate have deserved theirs.

This is difficult to stomach. (Though clearly not as difficult as it is for those on the other side of the coin.)

And while I’m doing my best to get into gratitude, that realization evokes a sense of guilt and unworthiness.

But thankfully, it’s also reminded me that every moment I spend grappling with this disparity in fortune is a moment that could be spent working to close it.

That wastefulness stops here.

While my wife and I have donated to a relief fund; housed a refugee (OK, it’s my mom, so it doesn’t count); and dropped off a stockpile of diapers, blankets and other necessities at a local shelter, I want to do more. I need to do more.

And that starts now.

I’m sure you’ve heard countless calls for help. But that’s not going to stop me from subjecting you to another one.

While Houston is on many people’s mind at the moment, that won’t be the case forever.

In a few days, or a couple weeks, or at some indeterminate point in the future, the rest of the country will move on. It’s inevitable, because it’s human nature.

So we need to make the most of things while we have your attention.

While you can’t go wrong supporting J.J. Watt’s heroic fund, I also urge you to think about donating to the Houston Food Bank, where each dollar provides three meals.

This is a place that’s especially dear to me, as my wife and I volunteer there regularly, and I’ve seen firsthand the incredible impact it makes.

If you can afford to, please consider contributing to the relief efforts. It’s cliche to say, but when you’re dealing with a tab that will run into the tens of billions, every penny counts.

Thank you for your compassion and support.

–Brent Stoller; #HoustonStrong since 1977


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