Texas, like all places, is the site of both triumphs and tragedies. Every Friday in the Best Thing in Texas, we look for something that reminds us why we love our state so much.
We only started the Best Thing in Texas last week, but not due to any previous lack of material. This series was conceived as a breather—something that we think that all Texans, despite sometimes fracturing national narratives, could rally around and take pride in. We have a staggering amount of incredible stories, works of art, acts of kindness, and general badassery happen across our fine state every day—so much that our writers often find themselves struggling to keep stock of them all. What a problem to have.
Still, even in its nascency, I debated skipping this week’s installment of the Best Thing in Texas. Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas last Friday, the Texas Monthly staff, like the rest of the state, has been keeping near obsessive tabs on the ongoing devastation. We watched as thousands poured into the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. We watched as Beaumont became an island. We watched as people sifted through the wreckage of their homes in La Grange, Dickinson, Rockport, Port Arthur, Victoria.
Again, there was no shortage of candidates for the Best Things in Texas this week. People have given their time, money, and resources to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, sometimes risking their lives along the way. But in a state as large in heart as it is in landmass, bestowing a superlative felt futile. Whatever one shining example we could possibly come up with fell short of the collective passion and spirit that has been demonstrated in Harvey’s wake.
Just when I was ready to make the call to table it until next week, I reread our mission statement for the Best Thing in Texas, which we intend to keep at the top of each installment of this series. And when I thought back to what truly made me proud of my state this week—something that reminded me “why we love our state so much”—a clear theme emerged.
It’s you. I’m proud of you, Texans.
I’m proud of the towns that came together when no one else was there. I’m proud of the Texans who, regardless of their current geography, did everything they could to pitch in. I’m proud of the organizations and individuals who have set everything aside to help the thousands of displaced Texans affected by Harvey. I’m proud of the the people who have lost everything and continue to ask how they can help.
This storm has highlighted the thing that, as a sixth-generation Texan, I find impossible to describe to those who haven’t lived here: Texans, above all else, have a deep devotion to Texas and the people in it. It’s a pride and affection that some of us inherit at birth, others through adoption. But no matter your Texas pedigree, when some of us are hurt, all of us spring to action. This is our state. These are our people.
John Steinbeck’s observations about Texas, which he detailed in Travels With Charley, have been tritely immortalized on bumper stickers, Pinterest posts, and even on the common area walls of my former University of Texas at Austin residence hall. But in times like these, I think back to them. For a non-Texan, he pretty much nailed it, y’all:
For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study and the passionate possession of all Texans.
And this week, my Texas obsession is with all of you. With your heart, with your particularly Texas-flavored ways of pitching in, with your unflappable spirit. It’s taken this moment to remind me of something that I often forget: the best thing about Texas is the people in it.