The Way I See It: In every crisis, there is opportunity

In every crisis, there is opportunity. Hurricane Harvey was a disastrous storm for many in our beloved Rice community. However, as a pair of off-campus roommates from Lovett and Baker, we had the right set of circumstances to make a few unconventional friends in the aftermath of Harvey.

From left: Cody Treybig and Martin Rather. Submitted photo.

From left: Roommates Cody Treybig and Martin Rather. Submitted photo.

A couple of 20-year-old college guys living with a 19-month-old baby. This sounds like the description of a bad sitcom, but it was our living situation for the past month. During the storm, as we watched news stories of those who weren’t as lucky, Cody suggested we reach out to see if we could offer shelter from the storm in our unharmed off-campus residence. Martin emailed the Rice Harvey Action Team and worked with Rice administrators, including Provost Marie Lynn Miranda and Arnaud Chevallier, to see how we could help. We were quickly paired with an international family whose ground-floor apartment was devastated by the storm, and Rohan, Punam and young Samruddhi moved in with us shortly thereafter.

From left: Cody, Samruddhi and Martin. Submitted photo.

From left: Cody, Samruddhi and Martin. Submitted photo.

Our house became a bona fide playground, with toys and dolls strewn about (one might argue this is an improvement upon the previous cleanliness of your standard collegiate male bachelor pad), but what a joy it was. Martin is an only child, and Cody is the youngest child in our respective families, so this was the first time we had extended interactions with a child. Samruddhi calls us “dada” in her native tongue of Marathi (“big brother” in English), and we loved spending time with her more than anything. We now tell stories across campus of how even the best college party pales in comparison to being “found” by a toddler in a game of hide-and-seek.

We were so sorry to see Punam and Samruddhi leave for India last week. Rohan moved in with a friend of his as he continues his work under Professor K.C. Nicolaou of Rice’s Chemistry Department. We won’t comment about whether tears were shed upon their departure, but our house sure feels empty and quiet without our newest friends. There’s no question, after a month of sharing the same space, the five of us are all inexorably linked and will continue to stay in touch.

From left: Cody, Punam, Rohan, Samruddhi and Martin. Submitted photo.

From left: Cody, Punam, Rohan, Samruddhi and Martin. Submitted photo.

We recognize the opportunities we would have never had without this shared experience. In addition to meeting such an incredible family, touring the BioScience Research Collaborative chemistry lab and speaking with the esteemed Dr. Nicolau about his childhood in Greece were both experiences we will not forget. As history (Martin) and math (Cody) majors, we also greatly enjoyed the opportunity to hear from Rohan about the research conducted every day in his lab. We’re looking forward to celebrating with Rohan when he’s a part of a cancer-curing team someday.

Our time with our new family reminded Cody of an old Zen Buddhist fable. In the story, one day a family was farming as usual and their harvest was the best it had ever been. The wife was elated and the father replied, “Who knows? We shall see.” However, the next day, as his son was farming, a full bounty in his hands, he tripped and broke his leg. A neighbor inquired, “What a shame. How will you live, work the land and prosper?” The farmer replied: “Who knows? We shall see.” Sure enough, the next day the army came with an announcement of war and said that any able-bodied young men would have to go. The son, knowing he could stay home, told the father that it was the best day of his life, and the father replied: “Who knows? We shall see.”

From left: Rohan, Martin and Cody in Rohan's lab. Submitted photo.

From left: Rohan, Martin and Cody in Rohan’s lab. Submitted photo.

The point of this cyclical fable is that no one can never know the ultimate outcome of any event.

The two of us consider ourselves lucky because out of Harvey, we met the kindest, most joyous and most loving family whom we will carry in our hearts for the rest of our lives. However, we know that there are people whose lives have been more affected by recent tragedies than us. This is not a self-congratulatory story, because there are so many who have done much, much more in relief than we have.

Upon their departure, we shared pictures of their time with us in a short Facebook post on Martin’s page. We were overwhelmed to learn that millions of people have now seen the photos of us hanging out with Sammruhdi, including thousands of kind comments praising the two of us and Rice for making this possible.

We shared these pictures and our story here not to take away from the post-Harvey images and narratives of unimaginable disaster, but to add to them by showing the joy of those of us now forever connected by the storm. The next time a tragedy occurs, we will remember to look for the Rohans, the Samruddhis and the Punams within it.

Martin Rather is a senior at Lovett College majoring in history and a 2017 recipient of the Morty Rich Award for Student Community Service. Cody Treybig is a sophomore at Baker College majoring in math.

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