The Best Humanity Has to Offer

Pat Bates

Pat Bates shares how she gained a new family while serving in Texas.

Like thousands, my life was permanently changed by Hurricane Harvey, but not in the way you might expect. Watching Texas suffer, powerless to do anything beyond turning a personal Facebook page into info central for family and friends, my broken heart longed to do more. So I deployed to Houston with Team Rubicon mere days after I learned they existed.

I was assigned to a team of fellow Team Rubicon rookies, with only our team leader having experience with this organization. Our mission was simple: to provide assistance to those in need, primarily in the form of removing furniture, drywall, flooring, etc. from houses damaged by the floods. Doing all this in 90+ degree temps, extremely high humidity, and wearing appropriate (and hot) safety gear.

After arriving in Houston we took a bus ride down to our forward operating base in Beaumont. This site was one of one of the hardest hit cities in the state. Another bus ride later, Beaumont’s Calvary Baptist Church became our temporary home. The generosity of this church community cannot adequately be put into words.

They turned over their facility to our good-hearted crew. Classrooms were dormitories, their fellowship hall became our mess hall, and parking lots were filled with work trucks and TR personnel. Forgot a pillow? They had them. Need a blanket? They had those too. Hungry? They served our meals, always with a smile, often preparing the food itself. They thanked us with the same sincere appreciation we offered them.

Six full days of physically backbreaking work was a massive undertaking. Command staff always had our backs, working to provide the equipment and leadership required to get the job done. Our Alpha Team members, each one a remarkable soul, will forever have a special place in my heart. We laughed until our sides hurt, we shed tears over the suffering we witnessed, as well as in acknowledgment of our unique TR journeys, each so personal and sacred they remain difficult to articulate.

We became family. We were continually humbled by the homeowners we were able to assist, some quiet, some gregarious, cantankerous, and each blessedly unique. Fellow TR volunteers, you know who you are, became fast friends, rolling into family status by deployment’s end.

Now that I am home, the sweltering heat and high humidity have been replaced by the season’s first snowfall. I find now that I miss my home state where so much disaster response work remains. While we all despair at the heartache in our world, Team Rubicon is a boots on the ground experience where you have the opportunity to see the shining light of selfless caring that is the hallmark of the best humanity has to offer.

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