Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Picture this: You hear of a hurricane coming. You live on the gulf coast, so a hurricane in and of itself isn't a big deal. You take a few mementos. You figure you'll be back in 2 or three days. You go to stay with a family member in Houston. 
The Hurricane itself doesn't do much damage, but the storm surge which reached 15 feet in some parts of Galveston, floods everything. It's a week before you're able to get back. By then your refrigerator hasn't had power for a week. Everything in your home under 5 feet high has been soaking in water since the storm hit; drywall, carpet, couches, clothes. Most everything will have to be thrown away. The remodeling you just did was a waste of money. You're going to have to do a complete remodel, replacing everything on the inside of your home; drywall, fixtures, cabinets, carpet, paint... everything. 
You don't have much money to do it. You had hurricane insurance. But the damage was done by a flood, not by a hurricane. You don't have flood insurance. You don't know where you're going to stay, how you're going to pay for it, how long it will take, how much exactly you'll get from the insurance company, and if your life will EVER be exactly the same. 
And then 50 volunteers come to your home. As your neighbors are working with teams of 2 or 3 people, tearing out walls and making piles of debris on their front sidewalks, a small army does in 2 hours what will take your neighbors weeks to do. They haul everything out, they rip up the carpet, they bust the drywall, they get your house ready to air out so the remodeling can start. 
You are overwhelmed. You try to direct traffic and make yourself useful, but you can't seem to concentrate. Why are these people helping? How am I going to get my life back to normal? How long will they be here? How am I going to pay for the damage? Thoughts flood your head uncontrollably. 
It's time for the volunteers to go. You are so grateful, but then they present you with $500. Your pride tells you you can't take it. They've already done enough. You'll manage. But 50 volunteers tell you that you have no choice. You reluctantly accept the money. You're overcome. You weep. You're a proud man. But you weep. 
That was the scene of the final project. I don't know about everyone else there in Galveston last Saturday, but I saw something that I will never forget. We put that man in an impossible position of debt. He knew it. And when he realized that we didn't expect anything in return, he was overcome. But what he doesn't know is that he repaid us with his sincere gratitude in a way that nothing else could have. 
I am grateful to be part of a company that has the priorities, means and ability to make something like the Texas relief trip happen. I'm grateful that Lindsey Grauling had the gumption to vocalize an idea she'd had. I'm glad for the people that heard it and built it. I'm grateful to all the incredible people in Corporate (Josh, Danielle, Christy and company) who handled the myriad details that are evil but necessary and made the trip run so smoothly. To the people that went to bed after me and got up before me. But I'm most grateful to that man, who showed me what true gratitude looks like.