Gratitude was the last thing I was looking for. A shovel or a broom was more like it.
When the Blanco River pushed its way through San Marcos, it carried with it a wrath so unbelievable it had snapped five-hundred year-old cypress trees in Wimberley like they were toothpicks. If the trees didn’t snap, then the river simply and completely stripped them of their bark, to be left bare as grim reminders of just how unrelenting Mother Nature can be.
As the rains fell, day after day, I would stand on my back porch and watch the streams flow down across the saturated lawn. Around the house the water flowed, never coming close to entering. Undeniably, I am one of the lucky ones who live far from the Blanco River. So lucky am I that I can just pull up a chair in the covered deck room, and watch and listen to the rain without worry.
So lucky am I, as well, that my cozy comforts were interrupted by hearing of just how badly San Marcos was getting swamped by the flooding river. In particular, the neighborhoods of Conway and Barbara streets caught my attention. Knowing many people who live in those neighborhoods, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of needing to reach out and volunteer my help. And so I did.
I parked at a friend’s house on Smith Street and made my way to Barbara Street, walking around the police barricades and onto a street busy with front-end loaders, massive industrial trash containers, garbage trucks, city vehicles, and yards full of homeowners, family members, and many volunteers (which included a huge representation from the global disaster relief group Samaritan’s Purse), I walked up to the first house and asked a woman in the front yard if she needed my help. Without hesitation she said, “Yes”.
Within minutes I was knocking down sheetrock and hauling it out by the wheelbarrow and over-sized garbage can loads. A very fine mist of sheetrock dust floated in the air, cautioning us all to wear face masks. Needless to say, wet sheetrock puts off a foul, noxious odor. Other work included carrying out furniture, pulling up wet muddy rugs, and spraying bleach. Working alongside me were student athletes from Judson High School and a couple of their coaches. There were no cell phones being attended to, nor for that matter, very little talking. All that was present were the sounds of hammers, shovels, and brooms, steadily working in unison to complete the job and move on to the next home.
And it’s when you leave a house that it hits you. It hits you straight on because you can’t avoid it. It hits you like a fist loaded with full blunt force, aiming not for your head but rather knuckling its way into your heart. Hitting you are the expressions of the homeowners offering you their gratitude. It’s the glassy-eyed look of someone who can’t put into words the depth of what their “Thank you” truly means. It’s a thank you from the 90 year-old homeowner who isn’t there, so you’re talking to her daughters who tell you how grateful she would be. It’s a thank you for walking up to this house out of the pure goodness of your heart. It’s a thank you that leaves you speechless because you know you’ve given someone reassurance that not even a flood of biblical proportions can even begin to dampen that undeniable and ever-inspiring force that refuses to sleep—the human spirit.
And most of all it’s a thank you that hits you so hard it leaves you no other option but to walk to the next home and ask, “Can I help?”
Copyright Ros Hill 2015