As waters rose, a 17-year-old boy named Thomas Edwards, woke up to a room full of water. As he looked outside to see that his neighborhood was engulfed by the unrelenting flood from hurricane Harvey, he also saw that his truck was completely submerged. Devastation was real, his home, his own investments were in complete peril and ruin. His heart broke, but broke for those he could see from his bedroom window, who lived in one story houses, knowing they had no escape. This boy reached out to his friends, Richard Dickason- 17, Liam Connor- 17, and Declan Connor- 15; together they took their small fishing boat and went house to house in their neighborhood, responding to cries for help and rescued over 50 people, along with their dogs, cats and even bunnies.

An elderly man stuck, as the flood water pushed through his open car window, neck high, he was too weak to swim against the force of its current. He sat alone with nowhere to go, feeling the water rise with each second. Police, National Guard and common folk, both rescuers and victims, saw the man and created a human chain, hands holding hands, one person after another, bracing one another to hold steady to reach his car. More than 20 people stood together to pull the elderly man from his car and finally, welcomed him to dry land.

Neighbors from Louisiana arrived with boats, 50 + strong, at their own expense, they took off work, filled their cars and boats with gas to help strangers who live in their sister state, Texas. They call themselves the Cajun Navy. Among the many rescuers, three of these men were heading to an area that local authorities had directed them to search, when they realized what they thought was debris was in fact a woman, face down in the water, being swept and pulled under by the flood’s current, two of the men jumped into the water to grab her, brought her back and quickly gave her CPR, and life-saving breathing recitation. The woman gasped for air. She was treated soon after and reunited with her family.

Another woman, with her small child, tried to escape the flood, but got trapped in their car by the merciless flood. She grabbed her child and left the vehicle, only to be swept into the canal, floating over half a mile away from their car. The 41-year-old mother held her baby tightly and above water for hours as the current pulled them deeper away from any hope. When rescuers found them, the child was cold and suffering from hypothermia, the mother clinging to her baby and the child hugging her mother. They both were pulled to safety, the child alive and only alive because of the mother, under water, held her baby above her head. Her baby’s life was her greatest fight and because of her efforts that life saved, at the expense of her own. She gave all she could, as she held her child high, to ensure her child could breathe and as soon as they were rescued, she passed away.

Heroism has new faces.

As Americans, we weep for those, our own, who suffer, as we sit by with only our prayers to offer these victims, and heroes among us. Yet in the midst of this great and terrible disaster, beauty is not only revealed but proven. A people who show decency beyond the natural, but that of the supernatural. Young, old, male, female, democrat, republican, black, brown… and white.

I believe these men and women were tested, but in those moments true character was revealed. However, I also believe that in each of these moments, more profoundly, God is revealed. People, common people, used as His hands, His voice, His heart.

God is real. He is shown in many whispers that pang at our hearts, in those moments we smile and show concern and love for others, when we demonstrate kindness to a stranger as we hurry about to our next important task, and even more in these powerful moments when one decides to be more than ourselves and put the lives of another above our own. This is not our nature, but the nature of One who died and now wears great and terrible scars that are more beautiful and more significant to the very life of every soul. God reveals Himself through and in each one of us.

There are moments beyond us, moments where we stop being just people and begin being God’s heart.

We all have a choice each day, whether or not we are going to be the hands and feet of God. A question to ask as we get ready in the morning: am I going to allow the heart of God to be shown through me this day.

Thank you to all those who stood and acted as God’s hand to and for all the victims. You embodied beauty beyond your own and today you now are among those who acted on our Creator’s behalf.

For those still drowning in a great and terrible flood, there is a Hand, a Whisper, a Voice that is calling you. It may not look like angles, but angels they are. He is bringing the natural to help you supernaturally. Stop, listen and see the beautiful Hand of God reaching out to you and giving you your way out.

But beyond this, there is a lesson to be learned: If young, old, woman, man, republican, democrat, black and white can be used by a great and mighty God… can we ever hate or separate ourselves from His very Hand and the people He is using to be that Hand? If God calls them to touch, save and help in times of need… can we, His people ever reject the agent He is using to help?

We are a great nation, we are a beautiful and diverse people. We are loud, we are gritty, we are different and we are magnificent. When push comes to shove, when tested, our true character is revealed. Because our truth is this, we are the land of the free, home of the brave. We are not one race, but many, we are not one faith, but many… free to worship as our hearts lead us and together we will fight, even put our lives on the line for our neighbors rights to pursue their dreams, to love, to live and be that beautiful creation each are called to be.

EVIL uses our differences to separate us; when God, in His creation, made us diverse to increase us, to make our lives rich, through and because of our differences.

These days have been tragic, yet it is in these times when we as a nation can become stronger… or we can instead allow it to further pull us apart. This is an opportunity… will we seize upon our hope and victory as a people, or will we allow foolishness and hatred to continue to break us?

As a people, my prayer is that our hearts not only become inspired by each of the stories described, but also the many that can be told beginning from our nation’s first arrivals. We have a terrible past, with terrible atrocities; yet goodness prevailed and those that shed and continue to shed their blood for our freedom and our hope, and those amazing heroes among us, deserve that we show beauty and respect one to another. I pray that I too can be the very hands of God each and every day as so many beautiful men and women have been for me, for us, in our time of need.

-written by Andrea Casteel Smith, author of Scarred Beautiful