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.

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.

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.