The Hotel Project, Day 8

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October 2, 2020, Dallas-

Today was a reminder of how well something can be accomplished, on short notice, and how badly something can be done, when the interest just isn’t there.

Our team put on a wonderful movie night, attended by 24 children and 7 adults. The activity involved building mini-cars, out of cardboard boxes, which the children could then decorate, whilst watching the film, in a simulated drive-in. Each child was allowed to keep their car. Being a diverse group of people, there were those who watched the film from start to finish, those who went to their rooms in the middle and those who engaged in non-disruptive activities, on the sidelines-much as takes place at a real drive-in theater.

Contrast this, and the well-conducted routine activities of the shelter, with a haphazard laundry “service”, which managed to either mix, or mislabel, at least three of the fifteen bags sent them-with a thinly-veiled disinterest in the outcome. The “service” was curtailed, after only three days, with some cases still outstanding. One way or another, it will be resolved- even if our supervisor has to go to the location, tomorrow, or one of us has to go there on Sunday or Monday. I can’t imagine a situation more degrading to a human being than to be deprived of one’s clothing, through someone else’s negligence.

For now, my attention goes to my little family, tomorrow, then back to business on Sunday.

The Hotel Project, Day 7

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October 1, 2020, Dallas-

This is a time when I am taking a hard line against distractions. I am not concerned with politics or who thinks what about whom. By focusing on what I have promised my charges and co-workers, I am doing far more of what matters to me.

Today, people who were waiting for clothing items for several weeks, got them. Others ran a couple of bingo games, and we began to prepare for more people to come to our shelter, as the number of hotels being used as shelters diminishes. Having been trained in registering people, in my previous deployment, I was able to help in that area, as well.

It was an exhausting day. Tomorrow may be more intense, but we will make it happen.

The Hotel Project, Day 6

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September 30, 2020, Dallas-

Today would have been Penny’s sixty-sixth birthday. There was no extended warranty to her lease on life, so it’s been ten years since she was here to celebrate.

I have done something of service, either directly to the Baha’i Faith or to the community- at- large, each year since her passing. This year, the ongoing relief project, for the victims of the three hurricanes that have hit southern Louisiana, has found me in Dallas- with the bonus of being able to spend time with my son and daughter-in-law, if only for a day-this coming Saturday.

While it is an honour to be asked to stay on, past October 7, I have promises to keep in the Prescott area and I think balance is very important. The Red Cross can have more of my time, after the close of 2020, but for now, I will finish out my substitute teaching and the community work that also makes a difference.

The Hotel Project, Day 5

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September 29, 2020, Dallas-

The young mother pushed her son’s stroller up to where I was standing, and matter-of-factly asked me to hold her clean laundry, when it comes back tomorrow, as she was headed to her hometown, to tend to a family emergency. She will return on Thursday or Friday.

We are approaching the midpoint in this effort, and yes, people are moving out of the hotel and on towards salvaging their possessions, their livelihoods and their lives. It will be a rocky process for most, and as one gentleman reminded us, this afternoon, we volunteers, as hard as we are working now, will soon head back to lives of relative comfort. Those hit by three successive storms will, in many cases, have no such respite.

This team is far more comprised of multiple generations, than the Strike Team with whom I worked in Alexandria. I find it most gratifying. Half of the team here is comprised of Millennials, giving the lie to arguments that the younger generations have no cache in solving the problems of society. The ideas and observations of our younger teammates equal their energy, in value.

We shall overcome-and so shall the victims of the storms.

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.

Jargon and Cross-Purposes

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September 24, 2020, Dallas-

I came here, this afternoon, to begin two weeks of deployment with the Red Cross, this time mainly helping clients who were displaced by three storms: Laura, Sally and Beta. They are staying in hotels, so our efforts are in the lobbie sof some of Dallas’s larger chain hotels. The Hilton, Hyatt, Wyndham and Marriott chains are earning their stripes, these past few weeks and for the near future.

I have spent a good part of the afternoon, at Dallas-Fort Worth Inetrnational Airport, bickering back and forth with Uber’s IT department and finance office. When IT finally cleared me, Finance stuck its foot out and, with the use of jargon and God-knows-what payment model, determined that my bank accounts were insufficient to meet a $ 26 tab. (They were not insufficient and aren’t now, either.)

Such are the vagaries of communicating only by smart phone. Tabs that are easy to locate on a PC do not exist on a phone. Looping is also more prevalent on a cell phone than on a PC or I-Pad. This is not the phone maker’s fault, but that of the website designers who choose not to add the same buttons to the phone that are on their PC applications. I know this, because my banks and this Social Medium,as well as others, have the smae buttons on their phone apps as on their computer apps.

It is a challenge, when businesses that depend on the consumer act at cross purposes with themselves, as well as with their prospective customers.

The good news is that a proactive taxi driver benefitted from Uber’s foolishness and I enjoyed a fine meal of Hawaiian Poke at a nice little establishment called Lemon Shark, not far from my abode of the next two weeks.

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.