My friend Donna and I reunite back in 2008 in Louisiana...
My first official day here in Denver, to volunteer with the Red Cross and the Colorado flooding. It's a typical travel day/first day experience...lots of hurry up and waiting, lots of confusion, lots of excitement at seeing old friends, and lots of anticipation as to what the next two weeks will entail.
Today took a unique turn right at the airport, as I was waiting to board my plane to Denver. As I was reading a book, a young lady walked up, saw my ID badge, and says, "Oh - Red Cross? Wait - you're Sherri??!!" Looking at her in confusion, she explained that she was from the Topeka, Kansas chapter - and had talked with a mutual friend of ours that had told her I'd be going to Denver. She introduces herself as Meghan, says she will be doing Public Affairs as well, and instantaneously, a new friendship is forged. That's kinda' how it rolls in the Red Cross.
After an uneventful flight, Meghan and I get a rental car (a black Volkswagon Passat - interesting!), and begin the drive to our Headquarters. It takes forever - not due to mileage, but due to bumper-to-bumper traffic along the highways. Gah. I thought I'd left this behind me when I left New Jersey/New York all those months ago.
Arriving at Headquarters, we quickly go through Inprocessing, and then to Transportation, where I check in our rental car. Every where I turn, I am running into familiar friends and old faces, and so some time is spent in reconnecting and reestablishing the friendships that have been born from many a year, many a disaster.
That's what is so cool about the Red Cross. Sometimes, people will heap praise on me for volunteering to work at these disasters, and it always brings twinges of guilt. Because - as strange as it may seem - I always seem to come home with so many blessings, so many gifts, so many fortunate experiences - that I feel it shouldn't come at others' misfortune.
For instance, I have worked for some of the most AMAZING managers in the country. From Shawn, I learned organization and purpose. From Donna Z, I learned singleminded determination on finishing a job and finishing it right. In Joplin, it was Joe, who taught me how to look out for my subordinates like I'm the Mama Bear and they're my cubs....In Hattiesburg, Janet taught me how to not only organize a department of people, but keep them inspired and see that their needs were met. I've learned forklift skills, truck-driving skills, lifting skills, paperwork skills, managing skills, organizing skills, and mediation skills.
I've been mentored by some pretty awesome people, and I'm always not only excited to be in their presence, but also humbled. I learn...I learn...and I learn...and I then try to use those skills and ideas for the next time that I'm in charge.
I've also learned how NOT to do things, and as unfortunate as those lessons are, they're necessary.
In the meantime, I've met dozens of men and women from all over this country - and our friendships just grow deeper and stronger the more we keep running into each other on these adventures. I consider them my family, and so I'm fortunate to have a family reunion every time I'm deployed. We smile, we hug, we do a quick 1-minute "catch up with life", and then we hit the ground running and get to work. Hard.
So...if people ever wonder why someone would do this crazy life...THAT'S why. Not only do I get so many rewards in helping others - but I am rewarded by the people I work for and work beside. I get to stretch and challenge myself in situations I would never have dreamed of, and I am developing new skills and new knowledge, constantly.
I LOVE MY JOB!
Anywho...after checking in with Public Affairs this afternoon and taking care of the necessary "first day" business, AND after a delicious gluten-free dinner at TGI Friday's (they have a dedicated gluten-free menu - woot!), Meghan and I are settled in our motel room, enjoying some quiet time. Tomorrow, we'll get our official assignments...don't know where, don't know what, but we will go where the wind takes us.