Living Through Chaos

Floodwaters rise, tripping over boundaries we set to keep us safe, merciless in their unyielding desire to submerge everything around them. Southeastern Texas is crippled by last week’s cruel onslaught of wind and rain and endless water. It is hard to see far enough take in the chaos that has come and comprehend how long it will sit, stagnant as water, during the long dry-out.

One voice yesterday brought forth a profound alternative.

Listening to NPR’s All Things Considered, Houston School Superintendent Richard Carranza discussed the scope of his crisis-stricken school system, the potential physical damage to schools across the district and how he and his team were working hard to bring normalcy back to students as quickly as possible. This in addition to the district’s decision to offer free meals to students throughout the school year as well as hiring teams of crisis counselors to help students handle the trauma.

When asked what he learned from the Hurricane Katrina experience, when scores of students transferred to Houston from New Orleans, he posited two lessons for the current situation: 1) “Just accept the fact that there’s gonna be chaos.” 2) “Serve the students in the best way you can.”

Chaos and service. How easy it is to let the first overwhelm us to the point we forget entirely about the second. For any leader, or any person, there are times in life of inexplicable levy breaking, of floodwaters so ferocious and fast that we lose our breath. Carranza’s insight implores us all to accept the unplanned, chaotic flow that visits from time to time, never losing sight of what our vocations call us to do, to serve in some way. Do what can be done while the water recedes. Just watching the coverage of citizen rescue teams, local first responders and the growing contingent of out of state people arriving with the simple question “How can I help?” you see the meaning of living through chaos.

The boundaries across southeastern Texas will likely never return to their pre-flood form. There will be many weeks, months, perhaps years of recovery and rebuilding. Akin to those times of personal levy breaking and chaos we each endure, the floodwaters can overwhelm to the point that all else is unreachable. In these moments, simply do what can be done while the water recedes. And it does recede. Accept the chaos for a while and serve as best you can.

For guidance on how to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey, please refer to this New York Times article.  





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