"Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best."
– Henry Van Dyke
Hello from Hattiesburg, MS.
Steve and I have finished our assignment with the Red Cross and both of us feel very privileged to have taken part in that activity. It is hard to put into words how affected by this experience we both have been, but suffice it to say we would do it again in a heartbeat. It was interesting to see how things played out for us there. We were initially sent to "sling hash", as Steve would put it, but by a stroke of weird luck, we ended up doing things that were in line with our natural skills and abilities.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I was the assistant to the Chief of Mass Care and helped him and his team stay organized on all the tasks they had in front of them - - sheltering, feeding, safety and wellness, and bulk distribution. Because I was in this position, I was able to see the "behind the scenes" efforts of what it takes to make a disaster relief effort tick. I must say that I was a tad overwhelmed with the amount of stress and activity that was inherent with this position. It's been a year since I had to deal with stress like that and it definitely took its toll on me. I was physically exhausted and had a headache at the end of every day. I was most intrigued to see the political underpinnings that go on behind the scenes too. There are a number of constituents in an operation like this - - the people affected by the disaster, of course, but also the state and local governments, FEMA, and the ARC's home office in Washington. Everyone has their own opinion on what needs to be done, who will be responsible for it, and who will get the credit. Because of the position I held, I was able to hear some of these conversations and it was rather enlightening.
Steve was great in his position as assistant to the Manager of Bulk Distribution. As all of you know, he spent 30 years in automotive manufacturing, the last few of which in material handling, so his skills on the dock and in the warehouse were invaluable. His boss was a younger guy with some experience but not a great communicator. Steve's role was to get directions from him and clarify them for the back office and loading dock volunteers. He was running constantly between his office and the dock and was also exhausted by day's end. By the end of the week he was the one contacting various EMAs (emergency managers) to determine their needs and prepare a list of products to be sent to them We can see that God had placed us both in positions that played to our skills and allowed us to both play a very important role on the team. Plus, his office was next to my office, so we got to see each other all the time and had much to talk about when the day was over.
Today we had to make a trip to Gulfport and get a replacement tire for the one we blew on the way down here. We both love this Gulf region so we took the opportunity to drive along the coast to Biloxi and do some gambling and have some great seafood for lunch. We were curious to see what we could of the hurricane damage but most of it had been cleaned up already as it has been 10 days since Isaac made landfall. What was left were large piles of debris on the beach, an abandoned boat next to the road, and some large trees out into the gulf a little bit from shore. Not bad really. We, of course, lost money at the casino but had a great lunch at McElvoy's right on the water. I had shrimp and grits and Steve had oysters and crab-stuffed red snapper. MMM MMM.
Tomorrow we begin our journey home. We begin with a stop in Little Rock, AR for a couple of days. Then on to Branson, MO. We will stop in Des Moines, IA and then turn right and head for Ohio. On the way we plan to stop at the world's largest truck stop on I-80, make a brief pit stop in Chicago for a Graduate Retreat for me, and then into Goshen, Indiana to visit with friends and drop off Big Red for some warranty work and repairs from our run-in with the tree back in Connecticut. After all that, we will be in Toledo/Detroit to visit family before heading down to Miami and our flight to Haiti.
Lots going on with the Andersons, no?
Take care peeps and we will see most of you very soon. Thanks for your prayers and thoughts of support while we were here. It was a great experience and we are so happy that we could be of service.