Saturday, October 17, 2009
Oh, A Disaster Next Week? Let Me Check My Calendar
I like my life very planned…I like order…I like to KNOW what is coming up…What I don’t like are surprises. As a volunteer with the Red Cross, it would really be ideal if we could plan when a disaster was going to happen, so I could schedule it accordingly on my calendar. You know, as in, “Oh, lunch next week? Let’s see - I have the dentist on Monday, a disaster on Wednesday – which will probably take at least 2-3 days – but Thursday works for me!”
Alas…that is not how it works, as we all know. Disasters seem to have this annoying tendency to just pop up out of nowhere, and always at an inconvenient time. But, when one is a volunteer, one assumes this risk – and reacts accordingly. One is used to getting a phone call at any hour of any day – and reacts accordingly. One gets used to the unpredictability of it all.
I was on my laptop Tuesday evening, reading blogs, checking out news sites, and chatting with friends on Facebook. One such friend is a fellow Red Cross volunteer and was on call that night for fire calls. At about 8:30 that night, she posts, “Oh – I just got called – on my way to an apartment fire! See ya!”
Apartment fire? This doesn’t sound good. Fires, in and of themselves, are not good. However, Red Cross volunteers dread hearing the word “apartment” associated with a fire. It escalates the situation – the response – the need – everything.
I quickly turn on my TV to watch the news, and they are reporting that it is now a 2-alarm fire in mid-town Kansas City. Over 50 units are affected. I looked at Hubby and said, “Uh oh. I think we’re going to be opening a shelter.”
Sure enough – at midnight, my phone rings, and it’s Headquarters. A shelter has indeed been opened, and they want to know if I can be in early in the morning to manage the day shift. In my sleepy state, I mumble, “Uh huh” – and later, I wonder what exactly I just agreed to.
I end up spending all day Wednesday and all day Thursday at the shelter – tending to client needs, talking and laughing with the clients, answering questions from the clients and Red Cross management and other shelter workers, giving out sweat suits and food and hugs to the clients, addressing problems, running to meetings with management to discuss our response, doing paperwork, dealing with media & interviews, running up the stairs, answering 327 phone calls, running back down the stairs - oh yeah – better snarf down a bag of chips for a quick lunch – because it’s only noon - and then the cycle starts all over again for the afternoon, until my shift is done, ten hours after it began.
And I love it. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Because, when it’s all said and done – if we helped ONE client with a little bit of hope – and a little bit of healing – and a little bit of inspiration – it was all worth it.