The Hotel Project, Day 4

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September 28, 2020, Dallas-

We will now send clients’ laundry out, for professional service, if they so choose. There are always considerations, these days- such as sensitivity to detergents and scents. There is also the fear, sometimes founded, of commercial laundries losing items, but that happens when washing machines and dryers “eat” clothing items as well.

I have now enjoyed the “Big 3” of North Dallas food items-Barbecue, Gourmet burgers and Poke; but wait, there’s Pho! I will get together with Aram and Yunhee, most likely this weekend-and enjoy Korean and Vietnamese fare. Another friend will likely be a dining companion, before I leave Dallas and the likely choice will be more poke.

I am getting the hang of this hotel project, and manage to keep actively serving. The source of amusement is that I carry two boxes at a time, when restocking the snack bag table. Others choose to carry one-but I think it really depends on each one’s condition- no judgment.

The Hotel Project, Day 3

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September 27, 2020, Dallas-

Sundays in a hotel are fairly quiet-with many in their rooms watching Pro Football or some other sport-or in a house of worship, honouring the Creator. Some find time for both.

My sole concern, from 8 a.m.-8 p.m., is the well-being of our clients- especially of the children. They are certainly showing all signs of being mentally and physically healthy, so the families, which are mainly extended, are doing a fine job, in the midst of recovery from the set of storms.

People will begin to head back towards the storm-ravaged areas, during the course of this week, as the wheels of the Federal bureaucracy grind on, and assistance becomes available for home and property checks-as well as intial plans for moving forward.

A solar storm may upend things a bit, but right now, the weather trend is for continued dry weather, throughout the area-at least in tems of the oceanic patterns. I saw a bit of emotional charge, this evening, so we may yet have conflicts to help settle, over the course of the coming days.

I am hoping to arrange a day off, possibly next weekend, the goal being to at least connect with my family at least a bit. This sort of thing is always in need of careful choreography, so to speak. The week is bound to bring plenty of both forward movement and a few setbacks.

Self or Others?

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September 23, 2020-.

I was in a group session on Monday evening, in which the question was posed, as to whether it is more crucial to care for oneself or to care for others.

The short answer to the title question is: Both. Actually, anything one does for oneself usually impacts others, and vice versa. This is especially true if one is reflective and maintains a consistent presence, in any given activity.

I have two socially-responsible lines of activity: Substitute teaching, which I did yesterday and Disaster Response, which I will resume tomorrow. A flight to Dallas, via Denver, early tomorrow morning, will begin my second Red Cross deployment, in a month. Two weeks will be spent in “Big D”, purportedly in providing assistance to those still being sheltered after Hurricanes Laura, Sally and Beta. Much of the sheltering happens after the full-on storm has left, and the floods/power outages make life continually unpleasant.

The activities in which I am involved are impacted by my beliefs. ‘Abdu’l-Baha exhorts us: “Be fair to yourselves and to others, that the evidences of justice may be revealed, through your deeds, among Our faithful servants.” It was ingrained in me, long before I became a Baha’i, to consider the needs of others, in lieu of indulging myself. That has remained, by and large, a guidepost in my life. I would have to , of course, acknowledge critics who say “Wait, you weren’t very nice to ME, not so long ago” or “I remember when …….” The goal, however, remains the same-and none of us walks on water.

So, as with my earlier deployment to Louisiana, by way of Beaumont, the needs of others will be far ahead of my own needs-this being the essence of Disaster Response.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 12: Holding My Own

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September 20,2020-

Three twenties in a row brought a few challenges with them. Someone who has enjoyed calling me out, on my perceived flaws, over the past few months, finally took my patience over the edge and has been banned from these sites. I’m sure the individual will show up, anonymously, just to prove that I have poor Internet security, but no matter.

Simply put, it is more imortant to me that the vast majority of people of good will may access these posts, than that I have airtight computer security, with a passphrase that has 100 characters, and is changed every five days. I have taken steps to minimize, if not eliminate, hacking- without taking on cybersecurity as a second job.

It was, otherwise, a very nice penultimate day of Summer, 2020. Two lovely Zoom-based devotionals-one honouring the late Helen Hamilton, about whom I wrote a memorial post, two weeks ago and the other honouring Race Unity, graced the morning and early afternoon.

It looks like a street fair that was to have taken place across the street from me was COVID canceled. I also had a rain check given me for a visit with friends north of here, as food canning took precedence for them.

This week brings what will pass for the start of Autumn, a dental check-up, anda possible second Red Cross deployment. September is not what is known as a “power month”, but it has called on me to sharpen a few skills of discernment and forebearance.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 11: Hacked

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September 19, 2020, Sedona-

As I sat on a small couch, in Synergy Coffee and Tea House, on the west side of this fascinating, if rather insular, town, I learned that my Facebook account had been hacked. Someone whined, “This always happens to you!” (Actually, this it the first time it’s happened, since 2011.) Maybe the individual has me confused with someone else.

Hacking usually happens when someone who is bored or lonely gets a video on screen and “just has to share it with all their friends!” I found myself in an unguarded moment, not wanting to hurt Ms. Lonely Heart’s feelings, and clicked on something I normally would ignore. After changing my password, and answering about twenty-seven pings on Messenger, I have put the matter to rest-and will leave all the Lonely Hearts (male and female) to deal with their hackers in a similar manner.

Speaking of lonely hearts, I spent much of the late afternoon listening to a single mother unload her sorrow and anger at what she perceives as a community that dumps on single mothers-and parents of small children, in general. While she finds Flagstaff to be worse, in that regard, her disappointment in Sedona is palapable. When she left, I pondered this matter, whilst myself enjoying dinner at a Mexican restaurant, within walking distance of Synergy. I saw several families, out and about, along with a sizable crowd, of mostly people my age and older, conducting a vigil for the late Supreme Court Associate Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Moms and Dads were indulging their sons and daughters with cheeseburgers and fries, or with gelato treats. Families enjoying life together, as they do in any community.

The cry of the needy is very often not heard, in a society that styles itself “Busy, productive, acheivement-oriented”. I had a short, but spirited, conversation with a couple of 40-something developers, who were bemoaning how hard it was to make money building in this area. I pointed out that, without a guaranteed water supply, successful building is a chimera. They brushed that aside with the “Field of Dreams” mantra:
‘If we build it, they will come.’ Time will tell-though, as Groucho Marx once said, “You can get stucco! Oh, how you can get stuck-o.”

So, in the small hangout that features caffeinated drinks, hemp products and artisan chocolate/cacao treats, both sadness and testosterone-fueled hubris were in abundance, at different points during my visit. The overworked owner had broken free, for her own evening of relaxation, elsewhere. In her absence, a mostly male group of musicians gathered, and began playing around 10 p.m.

I’m all about balance, and peaceful energy, and so left the boisterous, insular group of men behind and prepared for a quiet, calm ride back to Prescott.

There was one other, curious aspect to this evening. An engaging forty-ish woman, in talking about circumstances, asked about my current status. I replied that I am old enough to be her father and that I am essentially just into establishing friendships with people. She honoured that, while saying that age means little-it’s the energy that matters.

I think that anyone can be as connected, or as lonely, as one chooses. It’s harder in some communities than in others, but time will tell.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 10: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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September 18, 2020-

A major voice in the cause of women making their own choices, right or wrong, was stilled today. It didn’t make any difference to her WHAT the choice was, necessarily, so long as the outcome was not dictated to the woman by a man.

We needed Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as long as we had her among us. Eventually, even those women who greeted news of her death with mockery and derision will recognize that their own reactions, strangely, are in a way reflective of the late Justice’s life’s work. They came up with their own ultraconservative tirades-rather than just parroting the men in their lives.

Getting back to her achievements- I am greatly in favour of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I am not in favour of widespread promotion of abortion. The procedure should be safe, legal and very, very rare. Alternatives, though, need to be presented, clearly and consistently. I am most in favour of equal pay for equal work, and having worked alongside many women, over the years, I have seen plenty of equal work-and much that is superior.

Because of Justice Ginsburg’s early legal work, I, as a widower, have been able to receive Social Security Disablility Insurance Survivor’s Benefits, since my wife, Penny, passed in 2011. She stood squarely in favour of women being breadwinners. She stood squarely in favour of women being in the military-leading an effort that saw Virginia Military Institute, once a cornerstone of the Confederacy, agree to accept female cadets.

She stood up for a thirteen-year-old Arizona student, who had been forced to submit to a strip search (albeit only in the presence of female staff). Her male colleagues agreed that this was a miscarriage of justice. That act, alone, earned her my undying admiration.

She was a pioneer in the reference to international law, in some U.S. Court cases. She was also a true believer in the aisle as a mere passageway: Her best friend on the Court was Justice Antonin Scalia, with whom she shared a love of opera and of fine dining.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, rest in power.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 8: Remaining Worthy

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September 16, 2020-

As the natural afflictions that are challenging us ramp up in both number and severity, my ties to the Red Cross are growing both in frequency of appeals and in complexity. A side effect of this is that I am likely to be out of town more often, after next Monday.

Only a dental appointment is keeping me here, as it is, but that’s one of those things that will keep me around, on this earthly plane, a bit longer. So, as Thomas Sowell says, “It’s a trade-off.” Check-ups head off trouble at the pass.

Coming and going from town, regardless of the reason, does rankle a few people. I see some of the places I frequent, during extended time at Home Base, becoming more frosty in their ambiance. It’s my opinion that “Green is green”, anyone’s cash will keep people afloat. I do understand the notion of being missed, yet for anyone to be hurt, because a community member has gone to help people elsewhere, seems a bit farfetched. I have to remind folks that, when we needed assistance from places far afield-during the Indian Fire (2002), the Doce and Yarnell Hill Fires (2013) and the Goodwin Fire (2017), people came from as far away as Alaska and Michigan.

We will, slowly, arrive at an understanding that love means both letting people follow their hearts, and realize their dreams-but also letting those we love extend that love to others, in other places.

Even if I go, next week or the week after, I will come back to what I expect to be a stable and welcoming community.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 6: Teaching in a Hybrid Manner

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September 14, 2020-

I returned to substitute teaching today, for the first time since COVID burst through the door and took over. Being with eighth grade students has been fairly easy for me, over theyears,and today was no exception. One difference is, though, that Hybrid Scheduling has been adopted. This means, essentially, that students whose family names begin with A-K attend in person classes, on Monday and Wednesday; those whose family names begin with L-Z attend on Tuesday and Thursday. Thus, on any given day, the classroom is, essentially, half full.

Masks were no problem for any of us. I had plenty of training in wearing a mask for twelve hours at a stretch, during my Red Cross deployment for Hurricane Laura. The kids have, in most cases, chosen their own masks, and I wore my Planets and Stars pattern, which got a few compliments. One boy broke a strap on his, and I sent him to the School nurse, to get a replacement. He came back, wearing a rodeo pattern mask, which made his day.

It was also nice to be among a group of educators again. The bantering and discussion of a wide variety of topics, in the Teachers’ Lounge, is something I’ve missed, more than I thought.

Needless to say, this sort of day is likely to be rare, this coming Autumn, if the call to service comes as early as next Tuesday-and I go back out on deployment. That has its own rewards, though, as we’ve seen recently. In any case, even with all that is creating mayhem this year, I am glad to be in a position to help, in more than one way.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 3: Keeping the Door Ajar

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September 11, 2020-

Much, rightfully, has been said today about the attacks of 19 years ago, and how eerily similar things feel-as cities are continuing to feel the effects of discord and an entire region of the country is reeling from fire.

We, in northern Arizona, are seeing climatic effects of the fires to the west, as smoky air has kept temperatures down and those with breathing issues indoors. Stories of people struggling, of those who have lost loved ones and of others who have lost everything, keep multiplying. COVID is practically an afterthought, though it could burst through and cause additional mayhem, as it did during the ship fire in San Diego, earlier this summer.

Now, the Pacific Coast is seeing something unprecedented-an early fire season, with no indication that it can be brought to heel. People in the large cities are even on a fair alert. Those of us to the east must get ready, then, for an influx of refugees-much as we would if the great faults were to buckle, or the Cascades erupt in fury.

It’s not quite that bad, yet, but mental preparedness is best begun, weeks ahead of a potential mass evacuation. In the meantime, let us also direct our positive energy towards an end to the firestorm and form a plan for bringing our western neighbours to a safe haven.

I say this, having seen a minor version of chaos, when people fled the Louisiana coast, during Hurricane Laura, and safe havens became overwhelmed, within a few hours.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 1: Overcoming Learned Helplessness

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September 9, 2020-

A fortnight is a period of two weeks. There are about that many days until the September Equinox (Autumnal/Vernal). In this time, I wish to look at several themes that have impacted or are impacting my life and those around me.

As I edge closer to retirement and to making my own determination, as to which activities to which I devote time and energy, I have had to begin to find positive and helpful ways to address those who come to me with outstretched hands. Deflecting requests for money is easy enough. I have to budget what I have, in the way of financial resources, so as to both support myself and to fulfill some plans which I feel I have earned.

Time and energy are more problematic. No one can, in good conscience, refuse the legitimate requests for assistance with finding resources that come, sometimes randomly, from those who believe themselves to be at the end of their ropes. If one agrees to offer limited assistance, and uses the Internet to connect start-ups with potential benefactors, the result is usually win-win-and does not end up being a time and energy pit.

The key is to use the correct search terms, so as to not waste time on dead ends. For example, in linking an entrepreneur, in one of several African countries, to an entity that can provide seed money grants, the best search term is “Organizations that help marginalized communities in Africa”. I used this yesterday, and was able to forward a link to three appreciative entrepreneurs, who have imagined themselves to be in dire straits.

My message to such entrepreneurs is this: You have the skills and intelligence to make your dreams happen. Europeans and North Americans have done a bad job, in many cases, of giving the impression that our resources can lift all boats. That is seldom true, on an individual basis. It is by pooling resources, while simultaneously reminding the individuals seeking assistance that they can and should establish their own contacts with helpful organizations, that the most meaningful change can happen.

I am always glad to guide people to the proper resources, but I will no encourage and foster the sense of helplessness that only drags down both entrepreneur and advocate.