Amanda Leavell on Home, Texas Pride, and a Love of the Tenacity Spirit

I didn’t realize my level of Texas pride until I went to school in New Jersey.

Actually, going to school in New Jersey revealed that I didn’t have Texas pride but rather Houston pride. I wasn’t a member of the Texan club on campus. I did, however, go around hailing Houston as the “best city in the country.” The Rockets, Texans, and Astros? Best teams in the NBA, NFL, and MLB, respectively. The culture? Unbelievably beautiful and diverse with a melange of tastes, traditions, and tongues to prove it. The people? Oh, the people. A people characterized by the kindest souls and the greatest level of resilience.

I was reminded of this aspect of my fellow Houstonians a few weeks ago when I returned for a brief visit with the Tenacity Project. It was my first time being home since moving to San Francisco as well as my first time since the city witnessed the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. I couldn’t wait to be reunited with my mom who I had only heard crying over the phone a few weeks prior as the violent storm raged on. “A House Is Not A Home” by Luther Vandross was one of my favorite songs when I was little. In it, Vandross sings, “a chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sitting there. But a chair is not a house, and a house is not a home, when there’s no one there to hold you tight, and no one there you can kiss goodnight.” I think this brings up a very important aspect not only in the difference between a house and a home, but in the fact that the meaning of a home is different for everyone. Whereas a house is typically a physical location of residence, a home has much more significance and can vary from person to person. For me, home has historically been wherever my mom is. We have always lived in Houston, so my concept of home has inadvertently coincided with the city I love so much.

During my four years in college, Houston was still home. Even as I have settled into life in San Francisco, Houston still feels like home, and words can’t describe the helplessness and guilt associated with seeing the place you call home completely covered in water. However, like I said, the people of Houston are marked by resilience. We traveled to Houston to help out with a 5v5 fundraiser tournament for hurricane relief. The tournament was completely organized by young high-school students, and during my time there I also had the opportunity to watch other Tenacity girls practice. These girls are nothing short of an inspiration. Many of them lost their homes in the floods, others lost their schools and were required to share the facilities of other high-schools. Not once did anyone complain. Not once did they fail to smile (even through a tough conditioning workout at the end). They ran their hearts out in practice and threw themselves completely into the moment, and as they and other Houstonians push to get back on their feet after being knocked down, I am sweetly reminded that Houston is kind. Houston is resilient. Houston is home.

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