Yesterday I was working on raising money for victims of Harvey when I realized that, in the midst of tragedy, Texans are giving America more than we could possibly give them. My epiphany came when this tweet appeared in my Twitter feed…
— Michael Berry (@MichaelBerrySho) August 30, 2017
There in the line of volunteers I saw America, empathy, the willingness to serve and sacrifice, toughness, and determination, as well as diversity – all of this inspired by Texas. Not only their suffering, but also the heroism playing out in real time as covered by cable networks around the clock. Somehow Texas was showing us the way out of our political polarization, frustration, cynicism, anger, and confusion. Their hearty “Don’t Mess With Texas” tenacity was reminding all of us what it means to be an American. So, on this “Day of Giving” to Texas, I wanted to thank Texas for what it is giving to America.
The Power of Diversity
“At least four Houston-area mosques, all affiliated with the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, are currently serving as 24-hour shelters. ‘Mosques are open for everybody… and we’re treating everyone as VIP guests,’ M.J. Khan, the Islamic Society’s president, told CNN Thursday.”
“Mosques are open for everybody” is an important statement about the diversity of America, as well as a message to whoever was responsible for setting the fire that destroyed a Mosque in Victoria, Texas earlier this year (the same Victoria, Texas without power or water because of Harvey).
That Mosque destroyed by fire received approximately 800,000 dollars worth of donations from a diverse group of donors, and perhaps more importantly, sent a message being fulfilled today – that Texas is a place where mosques, churches, and those who choose not to attend either all consider themselves part of the rich and diverse tapestry we call America.
Imagine if one of the perpetrators of the fired Mosque in Victoria could only find shelter in one of these Islamic houses of worship. That would be powerful irony.
We Are Better Together
Maritza Castillo and her husband were on their way to help a family member, but they ended up saving the life of a stranger.
Few words need to be written to highlight the lesson taught by the video of Houstonians forming a human chain to save a life.
Maritza Castillo described the scene via phone with CNN. “As they waited in stalled traffic, they watched a horrifying scene unfold in front of them. Floodwaters had picked up an elderly man’s SUV and was sweeping it away.” Castillo said, “My heart started beating fast.” Then other drivers joined her and her husband “without pause” jumping into the water to aid the driver, when somebody said, “Let’s form a human chain.” They saved the man who was later reunited with his son and, at the same time, sent a powerful visual message to a polarized America that “we are better together.”
The Media Can Highlight Good
The world has been able to see some of the dramatic rescues and acts of altruism that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
After the acrimonious election of 2016, which never seems to end, the immense sadness produced by Hurricane Harvey has helped the media find their soul. I am certain I am not alone in watching the heroic actions of so many everyday citizens, first responders, and even journalists covering the stories on television, then drawing the conclusion that the media can tell us good stories if they want to.
My hope is that, after this tragedy is over, the media will learn a lesson, which is that we all have an appetite for “good stories.” In fact, there is some evidence that the media simply may have followed the trend created by everyday Americans telling these “good stories.” As the New York Times reports, “More than any hurricane before it, Harvey struck at a time when almost anyone can document their own experiences through social media.”
The media deserves credit for following the lead of everyday citizens telling the “good stories” about “good Americans.” It further solidifies my belief in our mission at Project Doing Good to help us “Do Good” everyday, not only on this “Day of Giving.”
Perhaps like me you will forever be inspired by Sgt. Steve Perez who, at age 60 with 34 years on the Houston Police force, responded to his wife’s request not to go to work in the midst of Hurricane Harvey by saying, “We’ve got work to do.” Sgt. Perez would lose his life to this storm, along with approximately 34 others at this point. The best thing we could do to honor their lives is accept the gifts Texas has given us today, then go forward and do good everyday, not just on this “Day of Giving.”