It’s been 17 days since I came home from Beaumont, and I’m still dreaming about Texas. Now that I’m home, it’s taken me almost a week to stop hesitating before putting my toothbrush under the faucet water, because the water in Beaumont was so contaminated that we were brushing our teeth with bottled water and policing each other to prevent muscle memory from taking over. It took equally as long to stop looking for water lines on every home I pass, to stop assessing cars parked on the street for signs of flood damage.
When I first came to Team Rubicon, I was 23 years old with no sense of direction. I was a newly licensed EMT, freshly divorced, working a dead-end job that I hated. A coworker of mine sought me out one day and said, “Have you heard of Team Rubicon?” By the end of that day, I had signed up, submitted all my paperwork, and finished Module 1. Within a few months, I went on my first regional deployment. I quit my job and found a better one, went to paramedic school, and found the sense of purpose I’d lost.
I had just finished my paramedic internship the day I got my deployment orders to Operation Hard Hustle. I made the 4-hour drive home, said hello to my cat, and left for Texas 12 hours later. At the Houston airport, I was handed the keys to a rental truck and off I drove into the wilds of Houston.
I knew before I left that this deployment would change my life because my time with TR always changes my life. But even knowing my life would change didn’t prepare me for how much Texas affected me.
I was absolutely blown away by the kindness and hospitality of the Texan people. People who had lost everything were going out of their way to take care of us.
The couple who owned the first house I helped muck out, Nan and John, found out I was raised Buddhist and insisted on bringing me to their Sangha – they picked me up from the FOB, made sure I was fed, and introduced me to their friends – all within 24 hours of meeting me.
While there, Nan gave me a Japanese Mala (Buddhist prayer beads) that had been in her family for a very long time. She checked in with me several times over the course of the deployment to make sure that I was doing okay – and we stayed in touch after I returned to Oregon.
Everywhere we went, people offered to share with us whatever they had – food, water, everything. Often, we found that the only thing they truly needed was for us to listen to their story – this I found especially true while on an assessment team. The strength and the tenacity of the Texans we met was awe-inspiring, and I’ve found myself thinking back on it almost daily since my return.
When I tell people Team Rubicon changed my life, there is nothing hyperbolic about it. Team Rubicon changed my life, and it continues to change my life – it gave me what has proven to be a lasting sense of direction and purpose. I am forever thankful that I found my TRibe.