Home to People In Exile…

I found another blog to read tonight. To quote the opening sentence:

Editor’s note: Abram Himelstein taught inner city children to write in New Orleans until forced to flee by Hurricane Katrina. He’s staying with family in Houston, trying to piece his life together and find the children he once taught. He’ll blog his experiences here: In Exile

Ok, enough of my bitter mood. Back to what matters. I’m in a city with thousands and thousands of refugees. People who are stranded. Who have no home. Who are living in the Houston Astrodome, on a cot. (There is a Dome Blog also, in case you want another perspective.) What is that, 2 feet by 6 feet to their name? Thousands more in hotels, or living with relatives or friends. Adrift.

I remember in 2001 when Allison hit. I remember staying up all night, watching my street flood. Watching it take over the parking lot. Wading out into the dark, nasty water to see if my car was flooded. I lived in a second floor apartment, my house was ok. I had electricity, and I was on IM with my friend Naomi all night long while we watched the news. We never slept. We were in shock. The next day started off with a call to the insurance company, and they were able to get me a rental car (one of the last in the city) while the dealership fixed mine. It took them a month to fix it. It was an inconvenience, and a bit stressful, but only for a few days. Eventually my car was fixed, my relationship with the ex ended once and for all, and life went on. But I will never, ever forget that one night.

Yet I realize I have NO idea at all what these people are going through. How they must feel. Houston “drained” in a week or less in 2001. New Orleans isn’t going to drain for awhile. (Those photos really drive home just how much of the city is flooded.) Reading blogs like In Exile give me a taste. Keeping up with posts here and there, wherever I can. I would rather read the real story from the people going through this then watch the news. Whenever I watch the news I get bitter. I agree with Abram, mothers taking formula and diapers and government officals taking supplies they need is not looting. But those people stealing the giant TVs in Wal-Mart? That is looting. Taking a lot of Nikes and selling them on the street? Looting. It makes me angry. So instead I look for the real story.

As I took a shower this morning, I thought of the people still on the street in New Orleans. They haven’t had the luxury of a shower since Monday. I can go into my kitchen and get a glass of water at any time. They haven’t tasted fresh water in days. I sit in a house with air conditioning, because it is in the high 90s outside right now. I remember how oppressively hot it was in New Orleans back in June when I was outside for three or four hours. I was miserable and a cool shower was the only thing that helped. They have been out there for days now. Not hours, days. While I can never know what any of these people are going through, I has a whole new appreciation for what I have.

The Red Cross shelter I was going to take clothes to is full. However, Northwest Assistance Ministries and Cypress Assistance Ministries are both accepting clothing to give to those in need. I’ll finish my initial sweep through the house and then call to find out who is still taking donations. Then I’m going to go back through the house again and find everything we don’t really need and take that stuff in too. Do we need legos that no one has played with in a year or two? No, but the kids that are now displaced and living in a shelter or in someone else’s house might. I walked in the door tonight and told Mike we have too much “stuff” and I’m giving it all away. I think he might have thought I was joking – I was actually pretty serious.

Chelsey called me earlier; she is on a mailing list for Bichon owners, and one of the list members is here in Houston. Fortunately, the wife works for a national hotel chain, and the local hotel has given them a room for free. They are giving her a job and helping her with an apartment for the next few months, but they have no money and nothing other than 3 suitcases worth of items that they brought with them when they left. I have an old couch. An unused toaster. Dishes that I don’t need any more. Probably some old pots and pans. I could sell them in a garage sale for a few bucks, but I won’t be – instead, we are going to coordinate a way to get them to the family (who is fortunately on my side of town, saving me some money on the insanely expensive gas right now).

Even then, it just doesn’t feel like enough.

So I’m going to start knitting for them. I am going to finish my current project (since the baby will be here soon and I’m almost done) and then I will start knitting baby bootees. (Alan, who knew the baby bootee book would end up having such a positive purpose?) Once I get some of those done, it is on to baby sweaters. These 97 degree days are not going to last forever. If you want to do something crafty for the people in need here in Houston – I keep seeing blogs that say, “I wish I could do more…” let me know. I will gladly deliver them to the places that can get them into the hands that need them.

Also, I want to try to make up some packets of cards with my stamping goods. General cards, birthday cards, whatever. I am going to call the shelter first to see if they will pass them out. When your whole world has been turned upside down, the ability to give a loved one a birthday card is just a calming thing. If I can’t find a shelter or group to take them, I’ll send them on to the troops in Iraq, as I know they can use them too. I’ve meant to do this for some time, but just never got around to it. Now? Now it is time.

As much as I can complain about Houston at times, and I still wish that they would do things like lift the “tourist” tax on hotel rooms now instead of requiring a 30 day stay, or give the people a room for free, well … I’m impressed with this city because they also have Maryland Tax Attorney service. I’m glad to see so many people doing so much. To know that a shelter isn’t taking clothes anymore because they received so many? That is a good thing. Sure, we’ve hit some snags – I don’t think anyone realized just how this would turn out. But all in all, I’m impressed. We are opening our schools to take in their children. The universities are taking in students. The food drive today was so huge that they had to put a call out during the drive for more volunteers because they had so much food to sort.

But there is still so much more to do. It all makes me feel so small. So I have to do something. Donating items we do not need and creating things to give to them seems like the best place to start. Let me know if you want to help.

By Christine

Christine is an Avenger of Sexiness. Her Superpower is helping Hot Mamas grow their Confidence by rediscovering their Beauty. She lives in the Heights in Houston, Texas, works as a boudoir photographer, and writes about running a Business of Awesome. In her spare time, she loves to knit, especially when she travels. She & her husband Mike have a food blog at Spoon & Knife.

One reply on “Home to People In Exile…”

I need to find a place on my side of town to take donations. I have two boxes of clothes I’d packed up months ago for donation, plus all the baby formula mix I got around the time Olivia was born.

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