I’ve been here in Houston for about three weeks now and the atmosphere remains positive in the outer rim of the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area. Granted, I understand that the inner city was hit hard, particularly 3rd Ward and South Houston (which is actually its own separate municipality entirely resulting in FEMA and state oversight), but the fact remains that people were still hit hard out in rural areas. Rich or poor, a flood still takes a painful if not deadly toll.

I did mud and muck removal in hard hit areas of New Caney, Glen Loch in The Woodlands, River Plantation up near Conroe. We trudged through unimaginable filth. Some homeowners had left copious amounts of meat inside the refrigerator before the deluge forced them to evacuate. My time moving furniture and appliances for St. Vincent de Paul lulled me into a complacency of thinking that I was an expert at moving a fridge, but not this kind of fridge. I found out the hard way that fridges are not waterproof (why did I assume they were?). Not only did the floodwater get into the fridge, but when the waters around the fridge receded, somehow the water inside the fridge stayed. We encountered the fridge at about 23 days after the flood—23 days of meat marinating in essentially sewer water.

More than three-fourths of the people in this region where without flood insurance when hurricane Harvey hit. Importantly, FEMA pays for a house to be rebuilt twice after being flooded, but not a third time. FEMA administers federal flood insurance—and only FEMA.

One house I was working on was located on a street with a strange name. Actually, quite a few streets have this particular name, but an Estadounidense knows that they are not in New York or Oregon when they see this name on a street sign—Robert E. Lee. Now, I’m not one to try and find a controversy, but let me explain what it is. One young lady was helping out on a Saturday (her first time out doing soggy wall removal and moldy house cleanup) when she asked me where she could relieve herself. Now, had a guy asked me, I’d have said, “Them trees over yonder might provide ample concealment,” but her being a female, I suggested she go upstairs as I doubted that it was damaged, “or,” I absentmindedly added, “You could just go knocking on doors of neighbors on this street and they will let you use their bathroom because they can see you are here to help.” To which she responded, horrified, “Um, did you see the name of this street?! A black woman can’t just randomly knock on doors in Texas on Robert E. Lee Street.” Point taken, ma’am. Being a man, I reverted to, “Go use the one upstairs.”

Related: Why Confederate Monuments Should be Taken Down

Hurricane Harvey hit Houston area hard barely a month ago. People flocked to the city to help. We still have these people from all over the state of Texas, from all over the Union and the world. Much has been made about the resilience of Houstonians, Texans in general, and the charity of our neighbors—namely the Cajuns and the Cajun Navy, to whom I want to extend a special holler of pride and gratitude. Lives were saved because you came before anybody else, but I must also tip my hat to the volunteers from around the country and around the world. We had, nay have people from Lubbock coming to gut houses. There were Okies cooking breakfast every morning on the main campus of the Woodlands Church where I volunteered my time. They were part of the Southern Baptist Convention—same as the group from Lubbock. I met Paige, a librarian from New York City who came on her own program to help out because she saw a need and answered a call from Heaven, or her gut.

I also spent the better part of a week with Pastor Bobby and his crew from Colorado—and yes, he had an Army veteran in his posse of 15. They even invited me to come visit them sometime in Colorado Springs, an offer I will take them up on.

The victims too, were from many places. Shirley Lewis, an immigrant from Britain, was greeted by a Blackhawk helicopter when the first floor of her homestead in New Caney became completely submerged in water. Her daughter had called a friend who called a friend, and it eventually got up to the National Guard. She elected to stay with her dogs, however, and those crafty dogs would later steal a sandwich from me.

This is the saga of an entire nation and perhaps of an entire world coming together. We didn’t just pull together as a city or as a state, but as a nation.