I Am Not a Hugger, But on Thursday I Was

By Thursday, my initial adrenaline rush was slowing down. The lack of sleep during the storm was snowballing with the emotional demands. So much of this was relieved when I arrived at 218 and began seeing faces that we had not seen. With the passage of time came water drainage. With drainage came drivable streets. This was the first day that many friends could get out of their homes.

I remember when our friends John and Erin walked into 218. None of us are huggers. I love that about them. But somehow after 5 days of separation by water, the desire to be dry and safe and together prompted a hug. This continued all day. A new face that I had not seen would walk in the door and I would jump out of my seat to hug them. This freaked people out because I am REALLY not a hugger, but here was the reality. Some of these friends had water in their homes. Some had been trapped for days. Some were without transportation. Some had been frozen in fear for days. Some had rushed out in the first hours to help and by Thursday, were feeling the bone pain of exhaustion. Whatever state you found yourself in, we all needed hugs.

By Thursday, the word was spreading about our distribution center. While many would pop up in the coming days and weeks. At this point, resources were scarce. Lines were still very long at stores. Money was all spent on salvage and housing. We had family after family coming in for assistance. During the course of the day, we requested shelving. In a matter of hours (and thanks to generous donors) easy to assemble shelving filled our worship space. As quickly as it could be assembled, clothing and shoes and supplies filled every shelf. When we would begin to run low on supplies, Donna would send out a plea on Facebook and the fountain would turn on.

The highlights of Thursday included watching many of my youngest’s teammates and families serve our community. When they heard of the work at the center, they began walking in to help. It’s easy to forget when you spend your free time together at kid’s sporting events that the power of that community is fierce. When these kids worked with the common focus of helping our city, everything began to shift. Some things that seemed vital two months ago where stalled by the invasion of Harvey. Where before, priorities for this group centered around what we would BBQ at a meet, suddenly our motivating force was the impact for our neighbors.

The insight from Thursday was the sheer magnitude of the storm. I am from the West side of Houston. The flooding to the city caused catastrophic flooding along the bayous. Due to the quantity of water, the Corp of Engineers released additional water from the reservoirs and the flooding continued to increase. My sister and her kids waded from their neighborhood where a friend of my parent’s drove to pick them up. Although the water did not reach their house, many of my childhood friends were directly impacted.

While the roadways continued to open, passage to and from the Med Center  was still not easy. My dad was admitted the Monday prior to the storm, and for 10 days, the view of his water logged city was from the 17th story of the MD Anderson tower. Unfortunately, his condition was not under control and a quick return trip for care was not possible, should he push for release. It would be another 24 hours before it was safe to return home, so we spent another night separated by miles of water. With each phone call to my mom and sister, I clung to the knowledge that while I could not get to them, I was doing the best I could to serve someone else’s mom or sister.

When I reflect on the highs and the lows of day 6, I have one very bright moment. At 5pm that day, 5 of our 7 church elders gathered on the porch of 218. The two missing were neck deep in recovery work. For some, this was the first day they could make it into League City. As we looked at each other and the needs that were being met in this space, it was a no brainer that we would continue. For many churches, “losing” worship space would have been tragic. For the community of ECL, it was a non-event. Actually, I think our community would have been upset with us if we had tried! Instead, the decision was made to worship under the oak tree outside on Sunday morning. The most important aspect of the coming Sunday was that we would be together. Our community needed to sing of hope. We needed to tell of the Resurrection promise. We needed to be fed at the table. And none of these things required a building. It was in that space, however, that my go-go-go body was told that we would rest on Sunday. I could not make this space for myself, so someone else did it for me. We all needed to prioritize Sabbath because the work of recovery is long and hard.

As the day came to a close, there was only one thing left to do. After hours of filling orders, folding clothes, moving gallons of cleaning supplies, packing diapers and folding more clothes, the girls and I made it to our house. At some point that night, Lucas arrived in a similar exhausted stupor. We were tired. We were feeling the pain of loss all around us. This kind of tired is so hard to explain. The image on today’s post will have to do. As Ally was in the shower, she laughed. I looked over and realized her was showering with her socks on. She was so tired, she forgot to take them off. We could all relate. We could not change the many devastating situations in our midst. So, we just hugged each other.

And there was evening and there was morning – the sixth day.

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