I need to make a statement. I want to say it as kindly and gently as possible, but this message really needs to get out there. It’s important. Please hear me with as much grace as you can, because I mean it with all love and gentleness.
My children and I spent hours yesterday sorting the donations that are pouring in. That picture is the mountain we were faced with, and it was still coming. We’re not the only ones. Hundreds (thousands?) of volunteers all across our state are doing the same exact thing. Why? Because your hearts are in the right place. That’s why.
I want to make that abundantly clear. It is beautifully apparent that you are thinking about us and that you want to help us figure this thing out. You are doing anything you can, and that has brought such profound joy to our hearts. I personally have received love, encouragement, and offers of assistance from all around the world – Iraq, Mexico, the Netherlands, Australia, the Philippines, Italy – to name a few. If that does not show us the true beauty that can still be found in this world, I don’t know what does. People can be stunningly beautiful when they want to be!
You have stood in unwavering solidarity with us. When I say ‘we are Texans,’ I mean all of you, both local and honorary, who have taken a stand for those suffering this week. My heart has literally been beautifully broken a hundred times an hour by your outpouring of compassion. So thank you. From the bottom of the heart of Texas, thank you. Our souls are on fire with HOPE because of you. Not only for our own recovery, but for the future plight of humanity.
So here’s where I get to say the really hard thing. Some of the items you are sending are the wrong donations. Just hear me out. I sorted and bagged (and bagged and bagged) hoards of ‘ugly’ Christmas sweaters…heavy winter coats…lingerie…stained undergarments…prom dresses…
I know your hearts are in the right place and you are rightfully imagining that we have lost everything because many have, but frankly these things do not help us in our current situation. In fact, they hinder our efforts more than a little bit. We do not need coats and sweaters in Houston right now. Believe me, we don’t. It’s 90 degrees and 99% humidity. Send us fans and bug spray, not sweaters. And we won’t for a long time to come because that is our weather all year round. Most of us never owned a single coat to begin with. True story.
And we are pretty much the least sexy area in the entire USA right now. Not a whole lot of time for love making around here. I mean, yeah. We like sex as much as the next state, but most of us are either emotionally spent, living in shelters, comprehending great loss, or working so many long hard hours (in the Texas heat!) that we fall onto whatever bed, air mattress, or piece of concrete we can find at the end of our shift and black out. Lingerie just isn’t a thing right now.
As for the undergarments… Well, I know you are trying to help us in the only ways you know how and perhaps that is quite simply the only thing you can afford to send us. I totally get that and respect and love that you have a servant’s heart to give whatever you can. It’s beautiful, friends. But try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who has lost everything they ever loved and worked for. And then donate like you would want to be donated to. You probably wouldn’t want to receive holey panties if you were hurting like these folks are hurting (although if holey panties are your thing, no judgement). I would wager that you would want to be extended every bit of dignity that you could get in this watery world. New, unstained underwear go a long way to make people feel like…well, people again.
The biggest problem with the wrong donations is that these items are severely hindering our recovery efforts in ways that you can’t begin to imagine. Hundreds of precious man and woman hours are being spent receiving, sorting, bagging, and stacking these items instead of mucking houses and feeding babies. We need every hand on deck in the most efficient and useful way we can.
Secondly, these unusable items are filling up our resource and rescue centers, leaving little room for things we really need right now. And sadly, many of them will end up in landfills that will already be bursting at the seams with people’s broken lives. We just don’t need that, honestly.
So here’s what you can do. Please, please continue to love us. There are no words to express how much your encouragement means to us. But please, please think before donating. If you come for rescue operations or donation drops, don’t just show up and wander aimlessly looking for something to do. Connect with FEMA and other local aid groups for instructions ahead of time. Vigilante helpers just are not helping, as beautiful as your hearts are. Having a plan or contact will help you and us!
Don’t empty your drawers and bureaus randomly into a bag. Go to sites like Aviators Helping South Texas or FEMA or Will Metcalf’s page and peruse the lists and find out what we really need. Donate financially to local nonprofits so they can buy what they actually need for recovery. Look, even if it’s 2$ it adds up. That gift is just as precious and needed as someone else’s $100. It’s about heart not amount. Supply gift cards to evacuees or those distributing to evacuees so they can buy what they really need. Keep in mind our seasonal situations, hazard situations, landfill situations when donating items. Think about things we need today to get through this right now (cleaning supplies, black garbage bags, work gloves), not things we might need next month or year (prom dresses). Today is all that we can comprehend right now…barely.
When donating items on the lists, please ask yourself if you or someone you loved was in our situation, is this what you would want someone to give to you? When purchasing gift cards, make sure they are VISAS or are to places we actually have down here in our areas. WaWa cards do us little good in Texas.
I am begging you to think before you donate. I know it’s hard to comprehend the situation when you are not here – impossible really. Heck, I live here and can barely grasp what I am seeing.
However, if you take a moment to give the right donations, it will make restoration and recovery that much more possible. In the end, isn’t that what we all desperately desire the most?
And know this. We love you. We thank you for loving us too. You cannot even begin to imagine what it means.
I love you, friends.
Beautifully and brokenly yours,