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 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 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.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 14: Equinox, 2020

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September 22, 2020-

The day of equal amounts of light and darkness has come just a tad later, this year. It’s just as well-too many things have been dumped on us, without warning, the first three seasons of this earthshaking year.

For me, autumn has ever been my favourite season, being the time of my birth. Gradual cooling and the vividness of colours have energized my being, after the increasingly extreme heat of summer, as much fun as the season just past brings with it. Bracing for the season of earth’s rest, that is winter, and the eventual promise of spring, makes “Fall” a most purposeful time, as well.

A few sprinkles fell, in our area, yesterday afternoon, as I was returning from a dental appointment, in Phoenix. My time in the Salt River Valley is limited, by choice, especially when temperatures remain in triple digits. Here in Prescott, we may expect temps in the 80s, until about mid-October. It may or may not rain, on any given day, though the National Weather Service rather lazily just pushes the button that says Sunny, as a default, most days. I imagine budget cuts and executive fiat may have something to do with that-as with the Post Office and FDA.

We all make choices, and as Penny would say-“You get all that comes with those choices.” She always made her own decisions, though asked what I thought, matter-of-factly, before doing so. Conversely, she expected me to do the same, and, after a previous life of bullheadedness and unilateral decisions, many not very well-made, I learned the wisdom of consultation.

I think of the above, as the inevitable debate about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and HER choices, ensues, this still being America. I disagreed, vehemently, with her take on abortion-though the role of men in that matter is largely one that ought to be performed LONG BEFORE any plug is pulled. Those men who raise their daughters, support their sisters and value their mothers, in the girls and women making their own INFORMED choices, are doing their jobs well. Those who downplay the intelligence and capabilities of the females among them, and pretend this is merely a man’s world, should not be surprised by anything at all that happens, as a result. Many, if not most, of the fetuses that have ended up aborted, (and whose souls no doubt greet those who aborted them, in the hereafter), would likely have either not been conceived in the first place, or would have been given an alternate path to life, had their mothers been raised in a place of love, empowerment and security.

The other real sticking point I had with RBG was her, take on “In God we trust”, which she saw as antiquated. I respectfully decline that observation. The Eternal cannot be so lightly dismissed, even in the name of free expression. In the end, though, “God hath no need of His creatures”; it’s very much the other way around.

Autumn plans? Well, I am spending today working with a Special Needs child. My Red Cross on-call status renews, tomorrow. During Fall Break, 10/12-16, I may go off on a sojourn, somewhere else in the West-and ditto for Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving/ 70th birthday weekend. In any case, days and nights will remain productive and largely other-centered. (More on that topic, tomorrow).

Fortnight of Transition, Day 13: The Fallacy of Convenience

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September 21, 2020-

A person who I have been helping to get an economic enterprise started recently sent a message, to the effect that he was sorry to inconvenience me as the message came while I was busy with something else.

He need not have been apologetic, as few people know with what activity I am engaged,at any given moment. So, it falls to me to explain myself a bit, to people of good will, that they not feel they are being intrusive.

Many of us have based our plans, our actions, our policies and our very communities on the concept of convenience. Many of the inventions that have come about, over the past 150 years, are designed to make life easier. To a great extent, that’s a good thing, in that people may have a shot at improved hygiene, more time to focus on the other people in their lives, and thus, enjoy a heightened quality of life.

Convenience as a goal for the few, however, rings hollow. The reason is, simply put, that the convenience enjoyed by one, or by a several, is not readily transferable to a sizable number of the Earth’s population-at least as yet. Those who are still making a gargantuan effort to rise up, out of a threadbare existence, cannot possibly understand why it is “necessary” for someone to own three, or six, homes. A person in Africa, just starting in life, may, with good reason, look askance at an older person in a prosperous community, who has no time for conversation-because he’s going out sailing or has to finish the fifth course of dinner.

What brings convenience to one, if it brings destitution or suffering to another, is a falsehood. I have said, in other places, that hunger and starvation, in this day and age, are largely failures of distribution. In Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a growing pecentage of the populace are well-fed, and the rulers include many who are obese. In Yemen, a fairly short distance from those two countries, a growing number of people are on the verge of starving to death. An effort at correcting the errors in distribution of food and medicine, rather than on punishing the people for their dubious leadership’s alliances with a perceived enemy, would go far towards saving the Yemenis, with their hollowed eyes and protruding rib cages. This state of affairs is mirrored in many places, large and small, across the globe.

The scene of the privileged, watching with blank expressions or annoyed at intrusions, while the suffering come into their filed of vision, calls out convenience for what it is- a falsehood, until the day when the hurt of one truly is internalized as the hurt of all.