The Kindness of Strangers
Posted by Pat Grissom at November 13th, 2017
The most truly generous persons are those who give silently without hope of praise or reward. ~Carol Ryrie Brink
On Saturday, August 26, 2017, I sat in the living room of friends in Wimberley, TX, watching the weather reports about Hurricane Harvey. I was shocked by the size and intensity of the red mass on the radar map above Houston and Galveston –right over my house. At midnight, a friend texted me, saying Friendswood was evacuating. Although, I live a short walk from a creek, in the forty years since it was constructed, my condo had never gotten water, so I clung to the idea that this did not include me.
After a sleepless night, I texted my next door neighbor to find out how we had fared. He texted back, “We got flooded.” Again, I could not fathom the idea of water beyond a few inches in my garage, certainly not above the pallets that elevated my inventory of 3,600 books six inches off of the ground.
In the days to come, I saw evidence of the flood waters receding and then returning Tuesday higher than ever after it rained continuously on Monday. My daughter sent a video of a man canoeing through my neighborhood with only the top third of the structures visible. A shocking picture of residents in a nursing home with water up to their chests went viral on Facebook. My heart grew heavier and heavier with the dread of what I was going back to when the roads were finally reopened.
When I received an email saying Heritage Park Church was offering help to flood victims, I filled out an online form, indicating I would be there by 3:00 on Thursday. I also created a FEMA account when I learned through a friend going into my waterlogged home that my personal insurance specifically excluded flood damages.
Thursday I drove back to my 86-year-old mother’s home, five miles from my condo. We ate lunch, and then she insisted on accompanying me to see what remained of my abode. After the initial shock of seeing my furniture rearranged after floating during two different flooding episode within a four-day period, Mother and I began bagging clothes from my dresser. The Heritage Park Crew arrived and began pulling out furniture and appliances. Mother and I worked feverishly to stay ahead of them. In two hours, they had cleared my bottom floor. They left with a commitment to return the following day to begin mucking out the counters and dry wall, which they did.
In the days that followed, my own church, Unity Bay Area Houston, sent a crew of people to continue the clean out process, including a non-member who simply wanted to help. People from California, Missouri, Alabama, and Michigan have shown up a my doorstep, eager to assist me. For a full month after the storm, Calvary Church provided two hot meals a day for flood victims and those who were helping.
When a group from the National Guard offered their help, I told them I had a mountain of books in my garage that needed to come out – my business inventory. They attacked it like a swarm of bees, and in two hours had it out of there. We were able to savage 680 copies of Too Much Gold to Flush, a book I had written about the lessons I learned when my three-month marriage ended abruptly and painfully. I was deeply touched when the leader of the group asked if she could have a signed book. I happily gave her and her crew copies with the inscription, “You are my heros.”
Considering my homeless situation, I sometimes start hosting my own pity party. Then I think of others who are doing a lot more with a lot less like my friend who has seven adults living with her in her one-bathroom house.
Last Christmas, I ran a crowdfunding project and gave 600 gift-wrapped copies of Too Much Gold to Flush to women’s shelters. This year I am doing it again with my remaining copies, but now that I am homeless, I have a new appreciation for how heartwarming it is for strangers to show up eager to do anything they can to help.
Friends, family, and people I had never met have asked me what they can do for me at this time. This is it – support me in making Christmas a little brighter this year for women who are in shelter. Every $25 provides one gift-wrapped book. The website where you can donate is: www.youcaring.com/DEW.
To donate with a check, mail it to:
DEW (Dedicated to Empowering Women) P.O.Box2235 Friendswood, TX 77549
After the books are delivered the second week in December, I will send you a tax deductible receipt from the shelter who received your generous gift.
My greatest blessing from this experience is the awesome kindness of strangers. Providing Christmas gifts to women in shelters is my way of passing on that generosity and love. Please support me in this pay-it-forward project.
That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing. ~Simone de Beauvoir