Neighbor Helping Neighbor

As I See It…

By Gary Gillen

Neighbor Helping Neighbor

While it only rained for 5 days, not 40, it was almost biblical in volume. For some lucky folks, it hardly affected their schedules. For others, their lives were altered forever. Some lost everything. Many will spend months, even years, recovering. Some will never really recover. To see the devastation is truly heartbreaking.

As Christians, we are called to help those in need. This week I witnessed that and more. A friend had water in his house so several friends went to work removing carpet, flooring and sheetrock. One might think that service, repeated thousands of times across Texas since Harvey arrived, was the story from a Christian perspective and perhaps it is.

I submit, however, that there is a larger story here. It is the story I witnessed in my friend’s neighborhood.

When I arrived in Riverstone that morning, the streets were already lined with piles of sheetrock, carpet and the soaked pieces of so many interrupted lives. Furniture, children’s toys, cabinets were piled high beside the street awaiting the claw-fitted trucks that would soon arrive to take these mounds of memories to places where mountains of memories are being built.

The streets were also lined with cars and pickup trucks. Homeowners, relatives, friends all arriving to help with the hot, dirty task of “mucking” houses, removing water-soaked carpet, sheetrock, furniture and sand.

Too many cars, too much debris, hot temperatures and challenging work. But no disputes, no arguments. An attitude of hopefulness mixed with exhaustion and appreciation. I saw White, South Asian, Hispanic, and Black. I do not know the religious beliefs of any of them. It didn’t matter today. Mostly, I saw people. People whose homes were unlivable. People who wanted to help friends.

Groups came by to deliver bags with hot dogs, chips and cookies. Others delivered very welcome ice-cold water bottles. No one asked about our political beliefs or our faith. It was just people helping those who needed help. Neighbors loaning tools, wheel barrows and words of encouragement to people who were short of confidence but long on determination.

My experience is just a single story among many thousand across the gulf coasts of Texas and Louisiana. As a Texan and an American, I’m proud of the enormous response we’ve seen from across the country and, really, around the world. This disaster has pulled the heart strings of so many people and their generosity is remarkable.

Please remember that another disaster will happen. The attention of the media will move to another story. We will be distracted by politics or sports or celebrity lives. For many people though, their lives have changed. They will never be the same and they will continue to need your help. Please do not forget them. Recovery from a life-altering disaster like Hurricane Harvey and the attendant post-traumatic stress will take months if not years. Your neighbors will continue to need your generosity, your understanding and your support. Don’t forget them.

If you have been part of the response to Harvey, let me say, “thank you.” Your generosity has changed lives. Let’s prove that we are a generous people now and in the future.

After all, wouldn’t you want that for yourself?

Gary Gillen owns and operates Gillen Pest Control in Richmond. He is the only person in history to have served on both the Richmond City Commission and the Rosenberg City Council. He was the Chairman of the Republican Party of Fort Bend County 2006-2007. He can be reached at