Nothing Matters But Helping Each Other
No power. No water. Temperatures are below freezing. The city is dark, and you can hear the freezing wind blowing into any crack in can find to get into the house. These are the thoughts that were going through the minds of many families in Texas during Winter Storm 2021. Families, children, and the elderly were at the mercy of strangers for help, food, and water. Universities, streets, schools, stores, and restaurants shut down. It was during these difficult and scary moments that we, as a city, prayed for each other and for darkness not to last too long. The nights were long and cold. Every now and again, power would come back and the Internet would push emails through.
It was then, that we received contact information from our university Mission & Ministry liaisons. A lifeline that provided useful resources for individuals who had nowhere to stay or needed transportation to a shelter or a warming center. The city came together to help each other. Help looked differently than it had looked before. Instead of offering to help get groceries to their car, you heard and witnessed people offering each other water, food, and shelter for warmth. Prayer chains were strong and mighty during these days. As a community, we prayed for hours together and encouraged our neighbors to let us know if someone they knew needed help and prayers. Our faith was tested during these long cold days and nights, but we never strayed from knowing that God was in control. As a community, we continued to pray and help each other day after day until the sun started shining again.
In the span of less than one week, the world was back to normal. The sun came out, the snow started to melt. Schools opened and businesses started to recover. It was only then that people started reaching out to family and friends who had gone silent and were not reachable during the coldest days of the week. The cold winter that came with anticipation, left with more than we had expected. More than 30 deaths throughout the city. Children and the elderly could not escape frigid temperatures. Families were changed forever because we were not prepared for the storm that came through.
Recovery continues to this day. Many organizations are working together to handout cases of drinking water and food to communities who are still without water or power. Pipes froze and burst. Mission and Ministry are working together to help the community get back to what life was like before the city shut down. Students in primary, secondary, and higher education are being offered support from all fronts…healthcare, mental health services, food, and any other resource they need to go back to the “normal” COVID-19 led-life that was before the storm. Together, we continue to pray for each other and support the community any way we can. Our spiritual leaders on campus are strong and always provide compassion, empathy, and sympathy not only to faculty, staff, and students but to the city and those in surrounding areas.
This experience has taught Texas a lot about who we are. We are God-fearing individuals who will go out of our way to ensure that the person next to us is warm and has something to eat. Nothing mattered during those times other than helping each other in any way possible. Job titles, bank accounts, worldly possessions meant nothing because they no longer had any value. We went back to the basics of life. Those days were about spending time with family around a candle, playing games, talking, getting to reconnect with our family members who are always on the go or on their phones and computers. Families got closer and learned to value these special moments. After this experience, living our daily lives under COVID-19 restrictions seemed to be more manageable. Needless to say, we all learned something about each other and ourselves the week the city went dark.
Emma Santa Maria, PhD: Dr. Santa Maria is the Director of Professional Development and an Assistant Professor at the University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine in San Antonio, Texas.
Amanda Galán-Davila, PhD: Dr. Galán-Davila is an Assistant Professor of Cellular and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine.
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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.