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Finding hope in community during a hurricane

By Karthik Rajan

When I first moved to Houston, I bought a car. My friends at work looked at my newly minted car and said with a smile, “This is Texas, we buy trucks.”

I did not fully comprehend them then. Now I do.

In October of 2017, the city started flooding. Water rose at an astonishing speed. Nine trillion gallons — twice the volume of the Great Lakes—rushed through my area. I constantly had one eye glued to the TV and another to my window , gauging the water levels.

One night, it hit closer to home. My wife and I made contingency plans. We mapped a path to higher ground. We packed a backpack. And we mentally prepared our young girls. They understood.

While packing, I was struck by the realization that what mattered to me could fit in a small section of a backpack! I had never paused to think about it  before, but now it was so clear. 

Life has a way of doling out ah-ha moments.

At first light, I ventured out to gauge the water level and to unclog water drains. I looked up , and  there was at least one person in front of every other home , assessing the same. Neighbors were waving — checking on each other, asking if roofs and backyards were holding up. They say that in big cities , proximity blurs human connection and makes you anonymous. That morning, Houston felt more like a small town.

That gave me a boost — belief in humanity can do wonders.

I received texts and calls from friends, family, and other well-wishers. They ranged from inquiries of well-being to open invitations to stay with them. It was heartwarming, to say the least. I was truly moved. That gave me a boost — belief in humanity can do wonders.

The icing on the cake was a text from Europe, from an unknown number. I texted back,  “may I know whose number this is?” When I saw the name , I smiled. It was my former boss. His thoughtfulness brought me immense joy. Rarely do professional and personal relationships cross decades. 

That moment was a keeper.

The fourth morning, my family was low on food .  I walked to the local grocery store, Kroger. An employee announced, “we will let people in when people leave. Warning: we are out of bread, low on milk, but high on the item that matters — beer.” And chuckles emanated from the crowd. I laughed for the first time in a while.

Beyond the people, there are many things I am thankful for. The stellar flood drainage system, the clean water supply, the unlimited AT&T data plan during the storm, and the ever-dependable rabbit-ear TV antennas. Missing cable and internet were minor blips.

It will be a story not of strength in numbers, but of strength in knowing that you are not alone when it matters. 

Many narratives will be etched when the story of this epic flood is written. But I think what will always bubble up is the story of newscasters, responders, and the surge of the human spirit. It will be a story of getting the basics right in terms of what warms a heart — helping hands, hugs, dry clothes, and a hot meal. It will be a story not of strength in numbers, but of strength in knowing that you are not alone when it matters. 

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Karthik Rajan is a self-proclaimed geek with social skills. Read more of Karthik's work on his Medium profile.

Resilience Bouncing forward Building resilience Collective resilience Finding meaning Supporting others Natural disaster Hurricane
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