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.

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 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 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 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.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 96: Remembrance of Alexandria

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September 4, 2020, Baton Rouge-

Tommy sat on a concete ledge, taking in the goings on, around a downtown park. He said he’d been struggling, but was determined to get back up and keep on going. He noted the three frames of tile mosaic, in front of us, saying he found something new in each tile, everytime he looked at them. This, he noted, was the true beauty of art. He expressed appreciation for our Red Cross efforts on behalf of Rapides Parish- a sentiment shared by many around this mid-state community.

There was a brief two hours, on Wednesday, when I was let loose upon downtown Alexandria, to get in some walkabout time and check out a four block radius of the district. Alexandria is a rather utilitarian city, with few landmarks of note-but there is a small park, near City Hall, which also doubles as Parish House.

Here is sundial motif, designating the seat of Rapides Parish.
Alexandria Museum was closedm by the time I got downtown.

The following three frames are a triptych of tile mosaics, in City Hall Park.

Tile mosaic of marine life.
Tile Mosaic of land animals.
Tile Mosaic of more animals, and people wprking together.
Alexandria Towers
Weiss and Goldring water tower
Capsicum, in ground box.

As it was time to get back and resume my own work, I got back in the truck and drove around, through the south side, passing people out enjoying the evening air-seeming just glad to have their languid, but clear skied, days back, after the storm of August 26.

The Summer of The Rising Tides, Day 95: The Wrap

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September 3, 2020, Baton Rouge-

All things come to an end, though their successor events take up the slack, right away. So it was with the ten-day sheltering exercise at Rapides Parish Coliseum, Alexandria, LA. (For those not familiar with Louisiana, a parish is the state’s equivalent of a county.)

We started early, maintaining services to the clients, until their 2 p.m. departure, either by chartered bus or personal vehicle to Louisiana State University at Alexandria, where they were either assigned to a mega-shelter or offered a hotel room somewhere else in Louisiana. A few stragglers came in during the day-two requesting lunch and one who thought he could stay the night. The couple got their lunch and the homeless man was given a couple of phone numbers to call for further assistance.

The hard work of breaking down sleeping cots and gathering up blankets lasted nearly four hours. Then, it was time to bid farewell to “Alex”. A dinner stop at Logan’s Road House, itself a happy, but somewhat chaotic establishment, provided fine food and good cheer.

Two hours later, we were here in Louisiana’s capital. I have tomorrow, and bit of Saturday, to rest up before the flight back to Arizona. It’s been a fascinating, sometimes grueling, deployment-getting to know and care deeply about, a cross-section of southwest and central Louisiana’s displaced people, both storm-displaced and homeless. There was no Black vs. White or Cajun/Creole vs. English- just a hundred thirty souls, all in the same boat.

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.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 88: It’s Like Arm Wrestling

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August 27, 2020, Alexandria, LA-

We heard the freight train coming through, around 2:30 A.M. There were lulls and uproars, from then on, continuously until 12 Noon. The subsiding of the winds was followed by occasional showers, for much of the afternoon. The power went out, and with it the Internet, thus the lateness of this and the preceding post.

We also found that water was shut down, as the city’s pumping station had lost its power, as well. I am expecting that the potability of the water will be non-existent, for several days after the flow is restored. Thankfully, we at the Coliseum shelter have an abundance of bottled water.

Facing the hurricane, along with keeping COVID-19 in mind, is a lot like arm wrestling, against a tag team. Both arms need to be in motion- and that’s a strange feeling. Our efforts continue and the team is, if anything, tighter as we go forward. Clients are also a strength, keeping one another in a heart embrace, and showing appreciation for our efforts as well.

It’s hot here, when the power and AC are off, as they were for most of today. As we were about ready to turn in for the night, the two comforts came back on. I am confident that we can get any other issues resolved, as they come up.