In the aftermath of the devastation that was Hurricane Harvey, and similar losses in Florida, it may be time to honestly assess what is important to us.

Television streamed a 24-hr a day summary of disaster, seasoned with kindness. Those of us who waited and watched the water rise, resigned to possibly losing our homes and having to be rescued, stayed glued to TV,  radio, and social media as long as there was power. I was struck by two things. Stuff is just stuff.  People (and pets) and our relations to them are more important.

While scrambling to prop up furniture and decide what to save, it dawned on me that I have accumulated a lot of objects, very few of which would be deeply missed.  I took measures to save my computers and the writing I’ve done and the pictures stored on them.

It shook me to realize that all my family was too far away to help or support me and I would be thrown onto the ‘kindness of strangers’ should the worst happen. Once the water began to rise in my street, friends around the city who might offer me shelter were unable to reach me without great risk. I had to depend on myself to do what was possible and to protect the two small creatures that are my daily companions.

Yet over and over again, I saw on TV the selfless bravery of our first-responders, the wonderful character of generosity and courage of my fellow Houstonians, and the unexpected blessing of people from all around the country who drove all night, often towing a boat, to reach out and help.

I was lucky. After three days of rain, I climbed into bed with my cats prepared to wake up to water on the floor. I prayed, as I knew my family and friends were praying. Miraculously, the rain stopped for several hours—long enough for the water to recede from my doorstep.

Just as in the aftermath of Ike, neighborhoods banded together to help each other. Neighbors that we met and befriended during that last event but somehow lost touch with or did not follow through to grow the acquaintance, once again knocked on doors and worked together to share whatever assistance and encouragement they could. It would be nice to think that we will do better this time, but history does not bear that out.

As we begin to recover, we will once more become absorbed in personal trials and lose sight of the bigger picture. That, I think may be the true tragedy of social media. It keeps us engaged, but always at arms length. True friendship takes a little work. You may have Facebook and Twitter friends around the world, but do they include your next door neighbors?  Is it easier to post something like this than to walk next door and say thank you?

Just something to think about.

Claire HP

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