Dateline seattle: Strangers helping strangers
Harvey, the hurricane that dumped more than 50 inches of rain and flooded Houston so badly was described in the media as catastrophic, record-shattering, destructive, unprecedented, and apocalyptic. Indeed, Harvey was all this. Just ask my daughter, Laya. In Harris County where Laya lives with her husband, Arnel, and their two young boys, Xavier and Gio, 52 inches of rain were dumped by Harvey, the heaviest downpour ever recorded in the continental U.S. It was reported that in Harris County alone, 30,000 to 40,000 homes may have been damaged. One of these homes belongs to my daughter and her husband. But for my daughter’s family, the ordeal did not begin when she saw the damage in their house, three days after the flood in their area had subsided. It began when they were on their way home Saturday evening after attending a children’s party. Attending a children’s party in the middle of a hurricane was not what I wanted to hear from her during our phone conversation. But she assured us that in their area the rains were on and off. She must have thought that, just like in the past, flooded streets were the worst thing that could happen. She was wrong. On their way home, they were stranded in a parking lot around ten minutes from home. It was 9 o’clock in the evening. Laya would eventually tell us that the boys were able to sleep despite the pounding of the rain. Arnel was able to give himself a little rest by sleeping intermittently throughout the night. Laya could not sleep. I wonder what was going on in Laya’s mind. She must have been scared for her two young boys. The thought that their van could be swept by the flood must have crossed her mind. What if the water seeped in from the floor of the van? To be in a no man’s land in the middle of the night must really be nerve-wracking. A friend of Laya would later write, “I cannot imagine their fear and anxiety as they sat in the rain, and my heart hurts when I think of Xavier saying, ‘I’m scared.’” Early Sunday morning, the roads were still not drivable. Water was all over. The boys were hungry. Laya and Arnel were hungry. There was nothing to eat. Stores were closed. Trudging through the flood was not an option with two young boys in tow. Their van was the only one left in the parking lot. I was worried for Laya and her family when she called us at 5 o’clock in the morning of Sunday (7 o’clock AM their time) and told us that two men invited them to their apartment. My natural reaction was to think of their safety. I’ve read and heard a lot of stories of people taking advantage of the vulnerable, especially during times such as this. I have at times lost faith in people’s ability to do good. But this time, I was wrong. In her own words, Laya described the two men who offered them shelter: “At 6 o’clock this morning, a couple of good Samaritans (bless their kind and generous souls!) offered us shelter at their apartment. So now we are dry, out of the rain, and can sprawl out on the floor with blankets and pillows…Just wanted to thank Luis and Jorge for taking this family of four complete strangers into their home. They treated us like family - made us a warm delicious meal, gave us our own room and bathroom, and played with the boys. They even went out to find an open gas station to get us more milk, contact solution, and toothbrushes! We will forever be grateful to them for taking care of us during such a scary time. They were truly an answered prayer!” Luis is Luis Delgadillo. Jorge is Jorge Rodriguez. Both are medical students from Mexico who are in their last year of training. They are preparing to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and are interested in taking up residency in the U.S. In their response to one of Laya’s friends who (also) thanked and offered to help them navigate the residency process in the U.S., Luis and Jorge wrote: “When we saw Laya approaching our car we knew that we had to help them. We would never turn our backs on anyone who needed help. Hurricane Harvey has left so many people without homes and in pure devastation, we were thankful to be able to help them in any capacity.” That selfless dedication to help any person in need is what defines Luis and Jorge and will define them as future doctors. Luis and Jorge have made me restore my dwindling faith in the goodness of people.