Point of No Return — Humanity makes a guest appearance in Houston

Date Published: 
Sept. 8, 2017

Anheuser-Busch, a titan amongst titans in the beer industry, announced last week that it was stopping the distribution of beer at its Georgia brewery to produce water for those suffering in floods in Texas.

And that is awesome.

It’s actually awesome for a few reasons. For starters, the move makes it possible for hundreds, if not thousands, of people sealed off from their regular way of life to access clean water. That’s a pretty significant thing we all need to survive.

It also had a less-tangible consequence, in that it signaled to those in trouble that the world has not forgotten them, and that we were all going to pull together to help the people hit hardest by Hurricane Harvey. In an era of nearly-unprecedented division, this move illustrated that it is possible for kindness and helping others to still have a formidable position in this world.

Meanwhile, NFL superstar J.J. Watt, who plays for the Houston Texans, took to social media to try to gather $200,000 in donations to his foundation to help the people of his adopted city. Watt is a significant figure throughout the nation for his excellence on the gridiron, and nearly mythical in the Houston area, and his name-recognition would go a long way toward hitting that $200,000 goal and really helping some people who could use a hand.

On Wednesday, Sept. 6, I took a look at Watt’s fundraising page to see where he stood. At that point, Watt had raised $21,618,279. Take a look at that number again. Watt had used his name and celebrity to generate nearly $22 million for people in need, solely on the backs of contributions from people and businesses.

Obviously, I’m focusing on big names like Anheuser-Busch and J.J. Watt because, well, they’re big names. You’ve heard of them, and can relate to their efforts because you’re familiar with their brand. These big players are necessary to make a signifcant mark in terms of helping others quickly and efficiently.

But the heroes of Hurricane Harvey were not all big names. Between fathering a 2-year-old and my job responsibilities, I haven’t been able to follow the news surrounding Harvey as much as I’d like to, but in the bits and pieces I have seen, there were countless examples of everyday people getting involved to help their “fellow man.”

I saw a line of people that appeared to stretch several blocks long trying to volunteer in any way they could. I watched people build a human chain to pull others out of raging waters. I saw a man of color jump into a flooded street and swim out to help pull an elderly white man out of a pickup truck. I saw a line of vehicles pulling private boats on a highway, risking their lives and their property in the hopes that they can save another.

I saw good.

Beneath all the discourse and hatred that have infiltrated nearly every corner of our fruited plains, Americans have consistently exposed themselves as caring creatures when the chips are down.

I remember fundraisers in this very community to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. Delmarva firefighters have consistently traveled west to help with wildfires, and people around here helped raise money and offered support to those devastated in Haiti.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen local fire companies, churches and businesses gather supplies to send down to Houston, and people are again huddling around televisions to see what happens with Hurricane Irma, ready to jump in with help, if necessary.

At our core, we are good — and I mean “we” as in humanity. We have a tendency on a day-to-day basis to smash others in a chest-beating rampage of social Darwinism, but we do act with remarkable heroism and generosity when we feel “innocents” have been hurt or are in danger.

Of course, there are always a few outliers.

According to a story in the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Attorney General has received more than 680 complaints from people saying businesses are inflating gas and water prices. One example they give is a Houston convenience store that has charged $20 per gallon of gas. Another Houston gas station has been charging $8.50 for a bottle of water, and $99 for a case, according to complaints.

If you subscribe to the supply-and-demand theory of business, rising prices make sense. The more of something that is desired, the more supply that is needed and the higher a premium one can place on the product. For example, if 200,000 people were demanding a copy of the Coastal Point, we would probably want to up our circulation (or supply) to fill that need. We would probably also quadruple the cost of our paper to our readers, which would bring it to... let’s see... nothing times four equals...

But I digress.

You get the point. It’s basically how capitalism and a free market works. That being said, gouging during a crisis is unethical at best, and illegal at worst.

According to the article, once Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency, Texas law prohibits selling essentials at an “exorbitant or excessive price.”

“It’s un-Texan,” said Abbott, “and we will not tolerate it.”

But that’s all for another day, and another time. For now, let’s celebrate the return of humanity, and the hope it continues for the people affected by Hurricane Irma.