My dad used to take my sister and I out on our bikes every evening. Once the heat subsided, we'd go on long rides through the neighborhood that I grew up in. Houston was a safe, beautiful, and free place to do that kind of classic childhood activity. Everyone said hello to each other. If we saw cans on the side of the road, my dad would make us pick them up to keep our neighborhood nice. The community was tight—so much so that the moment my mom heard a neighbor was sick, she'd start cooking meals before dropping them off on the doorstep.
Now, shelves sit empty at the market. Pets are abandoned, swimming through the streets. Homes are turned upside down. People are wading through water, holding plastic bags with their remaining belongings in one hand, and their children in the other. The land that I love has been devastated.
Being so many miles away from home and watching the news about Hurricane Harvey from sunny California feels completely unjust. How can a whole city be turned into a lake? How is it possible that my god-sister and her two small babies have been evacuated from their home by canoe? Did my dad really call to tell me that they're running low on food and had to eat chocolate chip cookies for dinner?
But people are resilient. People are brave. People dig deep, and find strength they never knew they had when faced with a monstrous challenge. Taking on the responsibility of a hero is no small feat—and that's what these people are: heroes. I've seen so many people jump into the action with limited sleep, limited funds, and zero comfort. So many earth-walking angels. It makes me realize more than ever that Texas is a beautiful blanket tightly woven with people who truly care for one another and the land that they were raised on. The whole world could take a note from watching them defeat this unimaginable challenge.
Last night I called my mom, and she told me about the GoFundMe pages of people directly affected by the flood. A boy who went to rescue his sister's cat, and got electrocuted in the process. A baby who was found clinging to her mother's unresponsive body. I can't imagine anything more important than getting money directly to these families. We live in a world where we treat ourselves because we can. We take the comfort of our own beds for granted. But disasters like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma are important reminders that if you deprive yourself of something small—that extra cocktail, that on-sale t-shirt—and use the money to help others, it can really make a difference in someone's life. Houston is a place full of people just like you and me—little kids riding bikes with their dads, moms making soup for their neighbors. Let's help them, and help each other. You never know when this will be you.
To find out how you can help Houston, visit some of Hilary's preferred charities below: