The Harvey We Needed
Words from Geoff...
Harvey Haiti and Zimbabwe
Today is the Monday after Harvey made landfall and brought with him destruction beyond our wildest dreams. While some are busy tearing out water logged carpet and sheet rock from their homes others are still not able to return to their homes to survey the damage. Many homes remain under water, curfews are instituted to keep the rule of law and thousands remain in shelters all over Houston. There isn't one person in the Houston metropolitan area that has not been impacted by the storm. Flooded cars line the streets, on the curb lay piles of debris that used to be the contents of our homes and volunteers in surgical masks have all become common sights to us now.
But that isn't the biggest news in Houston. Grabbing social media headlines right now a common theme has emerged and it is this:
People are remarkably capable of caring for one another in sacrificial ways and of showing love to strangers.
Ever ask yourself why?
The immediate and easiest answer is the obvious enormity of the need. During the storm without the direct intervention of neighbors people would have died. It's really that straight forward. People launched their boats into unsafe waters to pull strangers out of harms way. Others wadded into the dangers of high water and carried people in their arms to higher ground. Other risked the danger of downed power lines in flooded neighborhoods just to reach one more. Without the selfless actions of these neighbors the loss of life would have been much higher.
But after the immediate life saving need passes what makes us volunteer, give freely, open our homes and cook meals for those that we may not even know? Why do we continue to give without the need to see the impact of our actions?
What I observed in Africa last month has helped me understand this a bit more . Everywhere our family went in Zimbabwe we were reminded of their material poverty. It is a bias that we bring in tow that we will have to work at intentionally to overcome. We westerners view poverty almost exclusively through a lense of lack of material wealth. As a result of our tendencies to see poverty as a lack of possessionswe tend to alleviate poverty, to the best of our ability, by giving money and goods. It comes from a good place in our hearts, a place of sympathy and love and the motivations aren't to be quickly dismissed. I'm working personally on seeing poverty's causes as a breakdown in relationships at the root, and lack of material wealth as a symptom of one of these broken relationships. Layla found a similar experience in Haiti over spring break on a youth missions trip and we found ourselves asking each other "then why are they so happy when they seem to have so little?"
Even though I'll never have complete clarity on the subject, my tendencies and my thoughts are coming on line together. Harvey has brought Africa and Haiti into focus and is helping me learn that there is blessing in poverty that I have been insulated from. Many of us have been until this week.
Harvey has given we Houstonians all a better taste of a life of poverty and the blessing that can come with it.
When food was scarce restaurants cooked meals and gave them to their neighbors.
When homes were lost or had to be evacuated friends opened their home to aid others
When the water wasn't safe to drink strangers bought and handed out water
When homes were wrecked volunteers showed up by the 100's to tear out drywall and haul things to the curb
When you needed a place to take your pets churches opened up and took them in
There are endless examples of love , generosity and sacrifice and it was brought on by the sudden feeling of poverty. And inside us all lay muscles that were ready to be flexed. Those muscles are the real wealth that God created us with and gave us to be examples of his nature. The muscles of love, empathy, community , grace , hope and compassion. That is why Zimbabweans and Haitians are happy even when they possess so little. They have these relationships naturally that we are re discovering during tragedy. I almost lament the rapid pace that we will restore our community. Soon we will rebuild our houses, the electricity and cable tv will be back on, the communal tables will be put away and friends will leave to return to their normal lives. We'll lose the reliance on each and trade them for the ideals that keep us apart. We'll resume the race to the top and remember that there isn't enough for everyone and go get ours. The truth is poverty is mine and the life I lead has kept me from the treasure. The living God I serve has the riches of the universe at his disposal yet chose to become impoverished to teach me this lesson and give me this joy. Instead i turned it away and put my hope in a college degree, a good job, a loving family and a 401k. The Smith family is fighting this slide and are selling everything we own and giving it to the poor to follow His example. At long last, now i finally believe his promise is true. He promised to never leave me, to provide for me and to never let me go. He promises that he loves the poor and uses them to carry gospel. So what am I waiting for? I'm trading my stuff in and joining the richness of the poor. Thank you Harvey, Haiti and Africa for opening my heart.