Small gestures often have big consequences.
Even though Melaque did not suffer much wind or surf damage, it did take a water hit. For a day, Melaque was an island. We had our own moat between us and the world. Great for a siege. Lousy for life.
But that moat turned people from neighbors to refugees. Even one of the hurricane shelters was flooded out.
I have been really proud of the Mexican authorities when my utilities were quickly restored. To a degree, I was feeling rather smug until I discovered that over 100 people (half of them children) from the flooded area were still living in a shelter. Without food.
I believe the food situation is under control. But we are not back to normal.
The reason the families are still in the shelter is the condition of their homes. The flood took their possessions and exchanged them for rooms filled with mud.
During these crises it is very easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of help that is needed and where to extend assistance.
My landlady Christine is not a woman to get overwhelmed. She is manages property and has the problem-solving skills of a Fortune 500 CEO.
Four years ago, Melaque was hit with a similar flood. She volunteered to pick up and launder clothes and bedding from people who had been flooded out of their homes. It relieved the families of one thing. But a very meaningful thing. Mexicans are one of the neatest people I know.
Last week Christine immediately drove to the flooded area and started taking bundle after bundle of clothes to her house where she rinsed off mud, washed the clothes, dried them, folded them, and returned them to the owners. When I say she rinsed off mud, it was as if she had created an alluvial flood plain in her driveway.
The need was so great, she enlisted a few volunteers to assist her.
I accompanied her today to return laundry and to pick up more dirty clothes. I started this post with the line: “Small gestures often have big consequences.” That is not rank sentimentality. It is reality.
When Christine returned the clothes, the young wife receiving them was fighting back tears of gratitude. But she did not hold back on thanks. As a rule, Mexicans do not indulge in the torrent of formulaic thanks that we expect up north. But this young woman -- and her husband --- allowed her heart to flow.
While we were standing there, an elderly woman with a crude walking staff rushed up to us and with great animation asked for our help. It was easy to see why. She had a huge pile of laundry that she could not clean because her house still needed to be demudded.
Even as we drove away we had to stop because people came running behind us asking if we could help.
Christine is one of those people who seldom sees credit for the work she does, And that is fine with her. What she does, she does out of love for her community and her neighbors.
And she does not do it for the thanks. But it would have taken a rather cold heart not be moved by the relief and gratitude that Christine’s small gesture created in that neighborhood.
She may only be doing laundry. But she is doing it for the survivors -- the stars -- of this storm.
And what more could any of us ask?