Hurricane Harvey has caused widespread damage across southeastern Texas and the floodwaters are expected to continue to rise for several more days. Officials say they expect 450,000 people to register as disaster victims with federal government. We only need turn on our television sets to see that as the water is rising and so is the need. While we have heard of people trying to benefit from this disaster through price gouging in stores in the area to people soliciting trying to raise money for false charities, we have also seen and heard of countless stories of people helping one another. A business owner, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale opened two of his furniture show rooms to flood victims in Houston area. “We’ve got lots of beds, we’ve got lots of food, we’ve got water and you can even bring your animals,” McIngvale said in a Facebook video Sunday. He even gave out his personal cellphone number and told people, “If you need something, call and we’ll try to get you whatever help we can.” H-E-B, a popular food store, has not only opened its stores in many locations; they have a mobile delivery unit and have set up a food service providing meals to volunteers and victims in and around Victoria, Texas.
It is hard to know how to help. We have families right here in our congregation who have family members who live in and around the Houston area. They know all too well how frustrating it is when they want to help but don’t know how to respond. I am grateful to the many volunteers who are on the ground responding to immediate needs. I know that as the rains stop and the water subsides, there will be work to do for many months. UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) is working to gather supplies for cleaning kits to help flood victims. Many other organizations are encouraging people to give money rather than supplies; reminding us that doing things like collecting clothing, while well-intended, only creates another issue that will need to be dealt with by other volunteers later. For those of us who are able to give money, FEMA has a list of credible agencies and charities that they are encouraging people to contact.
Sometimes giving money is not an option for many who wish to help and while it may be frustrating that we see this great need in our country and feel like there is nothing we can do to be helpful, we should know that there is always things that we are able to offer. We can offer our support to those in our local community who are suffering. We can offer our time and our talent to local agencies and programs who serve those in our city who are marginalized. What we know is that many people are looking to southeast Texas right now and trying to meet those peoples’ immediate needs and that is a wonderful thing, but people right here are still in need and many of us are in a position to help address their needs. We can also offer prayer. Let us never forget the power of prayer. Prayer for those who are suffering as well as prayer for those who are working diligently to help is something that all of us, regardless of our own personal situations can offer. During times like this, I am often reminded of the Serenity Prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr in the late 1930s in response to the atrocities of WWII and adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1942, it says:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will. That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.”