Texas has been my home for the last 8 years. I think living in DFW may be the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place. I am not a native-born Texan. There’s a lot of cultural touchstones that I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand. But Texas is now part of me.
As I’ve lived here, parts of Texas have infused my soul with a mesquite-tinged hue. I’ve learned the nuances of Tex-Mex cuisine (to a degree). I’ve come to appreciate the diversity here, geological and human. I married a Texan, and my children were born here (well, number 2 is still pending!). My oikos will now and forevermore include Texan elements (tortillas now occupy equal importance next to biscuits).
When Amy and I married, we adopted each other’s families. She loves mine; I love hers. We’re still figuring out all of the implications, but it’s how we feel. I’m not sure if I’m always that good at it, but I’m trying.
Last week, I saw my wife’s family – my adopted family – experience a profound and scary chapter in their lives. Hurricane Harvey seemingly came out of nowhere and dumped a sea’s worth of water in an area not much different in size than many smaller US states. 6.5 million people, many of whom do not live in recognized flood planes or areas normally prone to significant flood, were inundated with unparalleled amounts of rain. And many from my wife’s extended family became encircled overnight.
Last I heard, they’re all ok. Almost all of them are helping with clean-up, rescue or hosting each other’s families until the water recedes. Their story is one of blessing.
Not everyone will have the same story. In the coming weeks, search and rescue will end and clean-up and rebuilding will begin. It’s going to take time. Many people who are suffering from Harvey also endured Katrina. Others remember Carla. Exterior flood damage will fade, but the people of Houston metro, Rockport, Port Aransas, Corpus Christi and all the other areas affected will need our support and care for quite a while.
Responding to Disaster – What You Can Do
Crises bring out the best and worst in people overnight. Initially, when we’re connected to an event, even emotionally, our instinct is to show solidarity and send support. Let’s be wise about it. Here’s how we can help in this disaster and others:
- Cash is king. Send it through reputable organizations. I’ll provide a list below.
- Limit material gifts to what the people on the ground are saying is most and immediately needed. Typically, diapers, baby formula, and water make the top of the list. While it may make us feel good to donate used clothing and household goods, these goods end up often times being passed on (too much is received) or having to be recycled (quality is too low). Furthermore, goods take up valuable space for staging logistics whereas cash is small, transferable, and can provide targeted relief for immediate needs.
- Volunteer for clean-up or rebuilding after going through a proper training program. The instinct to rush in and help is good, but be sure you don’t find yourself in need of rescue because of a lack of training.
- Support long-term efforts for rebuilding. Charities often get a surge of cash or help during times of crisis, but as the crisis fades from most of our minds, our support wanes. Rebuilding takes a concerted effort over the long-term. Consider setting up monthly support for your charity of choice for at least a year to support their efforts.
- Make sure you know what sorts of disasters are common in your area and have prudent preparations for them. You can’t prepare for every eventuality, but having what you need to make it to an evacuation point or to be able to wait for rescue can make all the difference in a crisis situation.
- Above all, pray for those affected by Harvey and other disasters. It may not seem like prayer is a big deal, but the prayers of righteous people are effective.
Where to Donate
A while back, I covered how to vet and give safely to charity in “How to Give Safely to Charity.” I won’t rehash it here for the sake of brevity, but it will give you an idea on where to start when deciding where to donate.
I’m a Southern Baptist, and we have one of the best developed disaster response teams worldwide. If you’re part of my tribe, start here:
If you’re not part of my tribe, but are a churchgoer, give through your church or to a church of your tribe close to the work – they will know what is needed and how to use the money.
If you feel like going through your church isn’t a good option or you don’t attend church, check out this list from Guidestar (a charity watchdog and rating group) of charities helping with rescue and rebuilding efforts. Each charity listed is rated by IRS 990 information and individual feedback. I use this resource as part of all of my initial vetting.
When responding to disaster, do your homework and contribute what, where, and however you can.