Amid intense loss and devastation, it’s sometimes the small and simple acts that can bring us the most comfort. And there’s a story out of Houston, Texas, that perfectly captures this important lesson.
Manny Fernandez, the Houston bureau chief for The New York Times, shared a story this week about a woman named Shirley Hines, whom he met while covering the impact of Hurricane Harvey in the region.
Fernandez explains the details:
I first met Ms. Hines a few days after her neighborhood was flooded by Hurricane Harvey. The inside of her house was outside at the curb, in a tall messy mound. I was asking her and her neighbors one question for an article I was writing for The New York Times: Amid so much loss, what did you manage to save?
Her granddaughter had answered the question for her, pulling a trash bag from the pile and digging through it until she found them — a collection of damaged Fitz and Floyd cups that had belonged to Ms. Hines’s late mother. Ms. Hines was getting rid of all of the cups, and she was having a hard time even talking about it.
After I spoke with her for a while, about the cups and what they meant to her, Ms. Hines changed her mind: She decided to keep a few that were not as damaged as the others.
On the surface, this might seem relatively benign. After all, we’re talking about chipped coffee mugs. But it’s clear that those mugs, which came from Hines’s mom, meant something to her; they were special.
And Fernandez’s story, which referenced the mugs, made a definitive impact, as a woman named Ann Dahms from Frederick, Maryland, found herself totally moved by the details.
And after seeing a photo of the broken cups, Dahms — a stranger with no connection to Hines whatsoever — went on the Internet and bought three mugs just like those that had been damaged.
Then, she shipped them to Fernandez’s home and asked that the reporter deliver them to Hines. In an email to the reporter explaining her reasons for tracking down the vintage mugs on eBay and sending them to Texas, Dahms said that she “desperately” wanted to offer some comfort.
“I desperately wanted to replace that broken cup. The world is a broken place, but also a place of great strength, dignity, and personal courage,” she wrote. “That’s what I wanted to honor. Also, I figured that the cups could also be from her mother, just a long way around, hopping a few decades in the journey.”
So, Fernandez delivered the mugs amid the chaos of Hurricane Harvey cleanup and Hines was deeply moved by the kind act.
“This has really made my day, really made my day,” she said. “It’s unbelievable, the identical cups. It’s very touching. Oh, my God. That is wonderful.”
Sometimes, it’s the simple things. Hines, like so many others in the wake of the storm, has lost so much and is facing such an uphill battle, but this kind act is an amazing effort to try and bring comfort amid the pain. Read more about the story here.