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.

The Hotel Project, Day Two

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September 26, 2020, Dallas-

Running with my sense that I am as worthy as anyone else, today passed with plenty of service activities, small victories over slight overreach on the part of some members of another agency and the departure of my sole detractor on yesterday’s team-thankfully, as just a normal turn of events, the end of the individual’s time on the project.

We also stood our ground against a person who was seeking to profit from the misery of others. This occasionally happens and the individual may keep trying, but the inclination is to keep on walking, when seeing my smiling face upon walking towards the entrance to the hall.

We still have hundreds of people who are in need of service and have sucured their places here, for as long as they need them. I remained at the Toy Table, and have started to bond with some of the children, who visit each day, to see if anything new has been donated, The items are not extravagant, but these children and families are grateful. A few items are not appropriated for most children, and have been set aside. This is not necessarily nefarious: I can remember when some toy manufacturer thought “Mystery Date” was a cute toy for 7-10-year-old girls. That lasted, maybe, a month or two.

I have stood firm on things like that, not going for anything that makes children feel that rushing their lives is in any way normal. We also want to remediate the stress that all family members are enduring. This may take the length of time our team is here, or it may take longer. Hopefully, the hurricane season has come to a de facto end.

The Hotel Project, Day One

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September 25, 2020, Dallas-

I woke up a bit late today, but got to the designated hotel (no specific names, due to Red Cross policy with regard to hotel-based shelters) on time. After grabbing a quick breakfast, I set to work helping to sort clothing, sorting through paper work and manning a reception table for several hours. The afternoon and evening were spent at the toy table, where I greeted children who each got to select one toy for themselves, and one for any siblings who were upstairs. No one tried to “run the table”. They were just glad to have this sort of thoughts paid to their needs, by local volunteers.

The shelter has been going on for a few weeks now, so my take was to follow the lead of those who have their routine down. My role was mainly to offer support to those whose self-confidence is flagging. The team is doing a wonderful job of meeting clients’ needs. Younger team members deserve, and are getting, the respect and support of us oldsters, and the converse will take time, but it’ll happen. People tend to reflect the way they themselves are treated, if not initially, then in failry short order.

Now to get to sleep, as Day 2 will be here very soon.

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 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 5: Whose Children Matter?

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September 13, 2020-

In some of my response to reports of abused and neglected children, it has come back at me that these particular campaigns are cherry-picked, Right-Wing trope activities. Maybe so, but I personally don’t cherry-pick, as to which children get attention and which go without.

Early in my counseling career, a severe sexual assault case was brought to me and the Response Team was in the midst of getting the victim to safety, when a call came about another child threatening suicide. I asked my senior partner to take that case and get back to me, once the child had been evaluated. This was unusual, for the particular community to have two victims at the same time, but there was no daylight, no distinction, between one child and the other.

One red flag, which discomfits many, is a child who gets too close, who hugs too tightly or even wants to sit on a non-related adult’s lap. I’ve dealt, gently, but firmly, with several such children, almost always girls-and who were either being totally ignored, shunned by their father or were being grommed by an adult either in, or known to, their immediate family. Getting the father to acknowledge, and spend quality time with, his daughter was relatively easy. The girls being taught sexual behaviours had, however, to be removed from the home and placed in group homes, where experienced professionals were able to give them the advanced therapy they needed.

I think of these children, a few of whom have kept in touch, as adults and are doing quite well, considering the ordeals that came their way. I think of them all the more, in light of the current Netflix film, “Cuties”, which uses exhibitionism as a vehicle to “combat sexual exploitation of children”. Counterintuitive, at best, and exploitative in itself, at worst, I see the showing of the film as a serious error in judgement. There was a period, from the mid-1990s to the late 2000s, when young European and South American girls were featured in some rather lurid websites-with the sites’ owners and photographers claiming their work was “art”. Fortunately, Interpol, the FBI, the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, of Germany, and, wondrously, the Russian FSB, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, took these sites down and the long process of finding and rehabilitating the child victims was initiated. I would not want to see anything close to that horrific state of affairs be repeated.

That said, the vast majority of sexual and physical abuse of children takes place in situations familiar to them, at the hands of people whom they ought to be able to trust. This makes it both simple and complex, for the helping professional- Simple, in that the child is easy to locate and remove from the home; complex, in that there is often a culture of denial in place, largely based on fear of disruption and dislocation of the family unit.

Getting co-operation from the other family members is completely dependent on their degree of self-assurance and cohesiveness, independent of the perpetrator(s). In a close-knit community, even law enforcement officers. medical staff and social services workers, if they are related to the perpetrator, can be a hindrance to justice for the victim.

All these factors come into play with regard to obtaining justice, and if the matter involves a child, or multiple children, being groomed in sexual behaviour, there needs to be both a swift separation of perpetrator(s) and victim(s) and active therapeutic measures initiated as quickly as possible.

No child, anywhere, is less important than any other.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 4: Legalese

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September 12, 2020-

Good things happened today. My middle brother turned 65, surrounded by the Georgia branch of his family. It was good to speak with him and to hear the vibrant voices of nephew, SIL and the little ones.

I am reaching an understanding with someone who thought I could be the brains behind his operation. There are legal points, like “Conflict of Interest” and Federal tax laws that would present problems for my being the Great White Hope. I think he gets it now.

“Cuties”, the well-intentioned, but misguided, film has run into a buzz-saw of valid criticism, for its reported perseverating on the physiques of pre-adolescent girls. I haven’t seen the film, nor will I-since Creeper Status is not something with which I identify, as well as the fact that my primary role with young people, male or female, is to encourage them to avoid being objectified and to follow dreams of their own choosing. Hopefully, there will arise a sense of propriety and like misguided projects before it, “Cuties” will disappear from the media.

Our Baha’i group had its tri-monthly consultative meeting and planned out the overall course of activities, over the next three months.

That brings me to the Red Cross-and that I was already asked when I could resume Disaster Response activities. A look at the map shows why-Fire to the left of us, Storms to the right-and I will be stuck in the middle, for at least another week, as I have personal business on the last day of summer and will focus on other matters here at Home Base, in the interim.

The Farmers Market is a bustling place, with a new venue. I was happy to visit there this morning, seeing some of my better friends, locally. Next weekend will bring me to Dharma Farm, in advance of Equinox, and the Weekend of Peace will see some events, both on Zoom and in the park across the street from me.

With that, let’s all take a deep breath, to the extent possible, in a climate of widespread smoke.

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.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 89: Deferred

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August 28, 2020, Alexandria, LA

The Internet was down today, and will be, until the 31st. So, I have decided that deferral of this blog series will just be a fact of life. In the meantime, I jotted down some notes and can say that there is actually no place I’d rather be, right now, than among the displaced and downtrodden of western and central Louisiana.

We are put among people who need us, in this life, and maybe we need them, just as much. There had to have been a good reason why I dreamt of being deployed to Alexandria. Some, from other parts of the country, put down the South, and the Deep South in particular. I dissent from that view. So far, in fact, Blacks, Whites and Hispanics have been together, under the roof of Rapides Parish Coliseum-for the past five days, in COVID-protocol close quarters, getting along well, because their circumstances are the same and becuase our team treats them all the same.

So, in gratefully accepting the Red Cross Challenge Coin,the organization’s certificate of merit, this evening, I noted that I am accepting it on behalf of everyone who is on staff.

A week remains, as do further challenges that come with a community in recovery. It’s nice to hear, though, that I am always welcome in Alexandria.