Opinion

Let’s talk about the human chain in Houston

Let’s talk about the chain. It was a human chain, on Interstate 10 in Houston on Tuesday afternoon. A black woman holding the hand of a white man holding the hand of a Latino man, then more than a dozen others.

Moments before, they were strangers, until an elderly man’s SUV got swept up in floodwaters on the highway. Somebody said: “Let’s form a chain.” So they did, finding strength together against the waters, then reaching the man’s vehicle, then opening the door to pull him to safety.

Let’s talk about the millennials. A couple of them, Joe Looke and Daniel Webb, were watching the early devastation from Hurricane Harvey when they decided they wanted to do more than watch. So they found a dry spot at a Houston shopping center and put up a sign asking for donations.

Soon, as the Houston Chronicle reported, people came by with toilet paper and bottles of water. One man brought an armful of pizzas. Within hours, they had filled more than 30 SUVs with items to take to local shelters.

Let’s not talk, for a few moments, about our disagreements. Let’s not talk about politics or hate or climate change policy or whether someone was enough of a leader this week. Those are legitimate debates, and we will surely have them soon enough.

Let’s talk about those who did lead this week, in their own way, no matter what you expect of them, no matter what you think of them. Let’s talk about the mosques throughout the Houston area that opened their doors for shelter without anyone asking them to. Let’s talk about the businessmen who decided to look past their bottom line.

One of them, Jim McIngvale, opened the doors to his Houston-area furniture emporium so that the suddenly homeless could have a place to stay and sleep. When 400-plus people straggled in, the man named “Mattress Mack” told them they should use the furniture on display. He’s not sure what he'll do with that furniture when everything gets back to normal. Maybe have a Harvey Sale, or maybe just take a loss.

“To hell with profits,” he said. Let’s talk about that.

Let’s talk about the law enforcement officers who risked their lives again and again for rescues. Let’s talk about the government officials turned shelter volunteers. And let’s also talk about the journalists – the supposed enemies of the people.

One of them, Brandi Smith of Houston’s KHOU, abandoned a live report to flag down sheriff’s deputies when she saw water filling the cab of man’s tractor trailer. Another, from CNN, was preparing to go on air when he instead ran to a ravine with his cameraman to save a man floating in his truck. They, like so many others, rushed into danger with one thought in mind: help.

Yes, there were people who exploited this week’s tragedy. There were stores that gouged and scammers who preyed and looters who didn’t need the items they stole. There will always be those people among us – in tragedies and every other day – and many of them will get away with it. It’s up to us whether we want to spend our time worrying about being taken advantage of, or deciding that it’s worth the risk to help others who need it.

So let’s talk about the chain. The human chain. There were several of them this week – hands grabbing hands in floodwaters, because that’s what the moment demanded. No one asked if the hand they gripped was here illegally, or if that hand pushed a button to vote for Donald Trump. No one asked if the person needing saving could have avoided their situation in the first place.

It was simply people, kind and courageous and willing to sacrifice, because other people needed them.

Let’s talk about that this week. Let’s try to remember it when this week is over.

  Comments