When I thought about traveling to Houston to help victims of Harvey, I pictured working-class families driven from their homes by water and mold, doing their best to get a roof back over their heads. I was excited to take advantage of some unusual flexibility at work and use some of the construction skills I’ve developed over the years to help.
When I showed up to Marsha’s house on Monday, I didn’t feel so excited anymore. Marsha is a middle class widow who I presumed owns her home free and clear by now, which would put her in the top 5% of the wealthiest people on this planet. That home was loaded with stuff ruined by the flood. Food. Knick knacks. Furniture. TV’s. Stuff.
I’m conflicted. I don’t mind at all putting in sweat to help people. But I’m frustrated at what I perceive as the financial irresponsibility of not having flood insurance. I don’t understand why this lady has to stay in a hotel with all the massive churches around here. There’s no one in her church that can put her up? I’m frustrated that she has money for cigarettes (which she sat in her car smoking while we worked) but not flood insurance. I want to help people, but I look at this so-called “plight” and consider the kids in America that aren’t going to eat tonight, victims of human trafficking (including more kids), communities that don’t have clean water and I can’t help but wonder what we’re doing here. At least there are homes here that need attention. At least there’s potable water flowing into these houses that need to be mucked out. Are we just here to make ourselves feel better? Houston has been warned for years that drainage and flood protection are inadequate…but we all act shocked and devastated when that reality bears fruit. I mean, this house flooded in 2001. But nothing changed.
But I was reminded of some things that changed my tune and softened my heart. Steve said that we’re here to do for one what we can’t do for all, or even many, which resonated with me. My wife reminded me that any particular one is connected to a lot of different ones, and there’s no telling what impact will be made. God reminded me of times when I’ve felt overwhelmed to the point of just doing nothing. Of times where I’ve felt entitled to something I truthfully had no right to. Of all I’ve been forgiven for, and that we’re judged by the measure we use to judge others.
“Where is Marsha’s church?” is a valid question. “How could someone live here without flood insurance?” is a valid question. “Is anyone going to do anything about these hungry kids in America?” is a valid question. But Jesus didn’t heal every physical sickness or fix every wine shortage in the world while He was here. He followed the Father where He led, and served where He was when He was there.
I’m at Marsha’s house this week, and that’s where I’ll serve. If I get a chance to tell Marsha to her face that I love her and that my Savior loves her, I’ll do that to. If I do it while I’m soaked in sweat from getting her kitchen mucked out, I bet she’ll believe it all the more. Even if I don’t get to say it to her, I’m thankful for the people that are planted here that will say it to her, and if my actions give their words more weight, then hallelujah.