Friday, September 23, 2005

Falling in love...

I'm falling in love right now...with my city. And it is a unique feeling for me. I've lived in the three largest cities in Texas since graduating from college. But, I have never felt so amazed and proud to live in a place as I do right now.

I lived in Austin for 5 years right out of college and left readily, to live closer to family and follow a higher paycheck. It wasn't until I'd been gone a few years that I realized that I truly loved Austin and it was the town that probably fit me the best (just perhaps not the rest of my family).

Next, came Dallas. We were there only a few years. While I liked the proximity of it to my family (far enough to prevent the "drop-in," not too far to visit often), I didn't like the pretentiousness of the area we lived in. I didn't hate it though. I was adjusting to it fine.

Then, another carrot was dangled with my husband's job, and we chose to come to Houston. My husband grew up here and so his parents and sister all live here. This has been an interesting adjustment for us, never having lived in a city with family that close before.

And, we've been here a little over 5 years now. There are times I have wondered why we are here at all. My elderly in-laws refuse to accept any help from us, which is partly why we moved here. We all have developed hideous allergies that we've never had before since we've moved here. I've had a lot of disappointments and hurt feelings with people I've met and tried to befriend. My moms' group is falling apart amidst the BSB (back-stabbing bitches) who have taken it over and destroyed it. We're VERY far from my family now and don't get to visit often. The heat and humidity just suck. There's lots of reasons to hate being in Houston.

But, I'm still falling in love with it. It started during Hurricane Katrina. As the residents of Louisiana were suffering, I watched this city roll out the welcome mat. I'll be honest, at the time I was worried about what that open hospitality would result in, over the next few years. But, people of this city did not hesitate. When I went to take a lot of donations over for the relief effort, I noticed that most of the people who were working, sorting through the massive mountains of clothes, toys, and food, well they looked like they needed help of their own. These weren't uppity or wealthy junior-leaguers sorting and working in their free time. These were blue-collar Houstonians giving all they had to people who had nothing. It made me want to do more.

And now, Hurricane Rita is almost upon us. The stories I have heard are amazing, but the people behind those stories have captured my heart. A call was put out last last night for people who could help those stranded. Within a few hours, more than 200 people had gathered at the convention center to be put on shuttle buses which would take water to people stranded with no gas and nowhere to go in the gridlock. They interviewed these people who'd come to help, just hours before they may be pounded by hurricane force winds. The responses were a statement about the people who live in this city--"we have a few hours to help here, before it hits, so why not?" and "It could be us out there on the street stranded, how could we not?" Again, these were working class people, who had a lot to worry about right now on their own. Selflessness seems to flow from people's veins in this town. The news anchors here tell the stories of volunteerism and they don't bat an eye when they say, "Well, this is no suprise. This is our city, Houston, at work."

My neighbor just stopped by to say hello. His family all left for Dallas and made it out just before the horrible traffic jams locked up our city. He had food from his pantry in his arms. he was going to drive out to Hwy 290 (near our home) and hand out what he had to the people stranded. He was not at his home, boarding up, he was handing out because people needed help. Food that he may need in the weeks to come, if we're without power or flooded into our neighborhood. The stores have nothing left and probably will not get anything for many days.

This is my city. I am a Houstonian and proud of it. I honestly feel like living amongst people who give so much to help those less fortunate, well it can only make me a better person. And, I'm damn proud to live here...I just hope that I can live up to the heart of Houston. Because, it is as big as all of Texas, if you asked me.

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