To the 2 million homes in Texas without power right now. To the millions covered in snow, who cannot keep their houses warm during freezing temperatures.
To Karen and Joe, in North Texas, who can see their breath vapor while lying in bed; who are eating cold cans of tuna in the dark, covered in blankets; who are constantly telling their anxious children, “Everything will be okay.”
To Lynn, the single mother with a 6-month-old who was so cold last night she crawled into her idling car parked in the driveway; who cranked the heater and cradled her child; who stayed there until three in the morning until her vehicle ran out of gas.
To elderly Miss Susan, who invited 14 neighbors into her house to share the warmth of her fireplace. She turned it into a party with games, music, and everything.
To Rod, the 32-year-old in Houston who opened his home to three homeless guys he found on the street. Rod welcomed them into his living room and showed them to his gas fireplace. Rod gave them new clothes, hot showers, then fired up his outdoor grill and barbecued a rack of Saint Louis ribs. They ate supper by candlelight.
And to those same long-bearded men who slept in Rod’s living room last night. They were men who, just yesterday, had snow encrusted whiskers and ice-covered eyebrows. As I write this, they are asleep on Rod’s floor, buried beneath a Pikes Peak of quilts, nestled beside a glowing hearth, enjoying full stomachs.
To the 27,229 homeless men and women in the state of Texas who are lost tonight. Most of them are people who have no family ties. Some are mentally ill. Each one is lonely. Almost all have been forced to huddle against buildings, in ditches, or in tents, simply to overcome below-zero wind chills.
To the emergency workers, the EMTs, the sheriff departments, the police officers, the doctors, nurses, firemen, and good Samaritans who comb the streets, alleyways, rural highways, and Texas suburbs looking for adults, kids, or lost animals who need help.
To any who find themselves asleep on the floors of Texas churches, community centers, furniture stores, or makeshift warming shelters.
To the 500 who sought refuge at a Houston facility last night just to stay alive. And to every single Texas person who helps run these 35 impromptu warming shelters throughout the Lonestar State.
To the families of the deceased.
To the family of the older woman and three children who lost power in Houston, who tried to warm themselves but caused an accidental gas fire and died.
To the 13 kids in Fort Worth who were admitted to Cook Children’s Medical Center with carbon monoxide poisoning because their families tried to heat their homes with gas stoves, open ovens, generators, or propane.
To the family members of the two men found near Houston, who were frozen to death on the side of the road.
And to those outside Texas, enduring hard times.
To the family of the Kentucky man whose vehicle ran off an icy highway and flipped.
To the family of the man near Starkville, Mississippi, whose vehicle overturned on an icy road and killed him.
To the family of the little boy in west Tennessee who fell into an ice-covered pond during a winter storm.
To the 250,000 who lost power throughout Appalachia.
To the 200,000 in Oregon who were without electricity from an ice storm.
To the 4 million people who lost power in Mexico.
To the residents of Brunswick County, North Carolina, who endured an EF3 tornado with hardly any warning beforehand; a storm with 160 mph winds; a tornado that killed people, wrecked a county, and destroyed dozens of homes.
To the hordes of school systems that were forced to close; from Chicago to Alabama; from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.
To the people who lost power in Oklahoma City, during 8-degree weather.
To those in Nebraska whose power went off during 23-below-zero temperatures—the coldest within 25 years.
To anyone in America reading this right now, who is worried about where life is going. Who doesn’t know what’s happening. Who never knows what’s happening.
To anyone who has ever nailed a smile to their face during this pandemic era, choked back tears, and pretended like everything was fine.
To mothers who wake up in the middle of the night with overwhelming anxiety, who feel as though the world is crashing down on them. To fathers who feel like this past year has tested the stuff they’re made of, who feel they’ve failed.
To anyone who has ever been strong enough to look their children in the eyes and say, “Everything will be okay,” even when they themselves weren’t sure.
And to you. Especially to you.
God bless you.