Saturday (5/14) was my first day being fully “in charge” here, as the previous manager was “out-processing” and getting ready to return to his home in the Cincinnati area, where he now is. It was a non-stop day but at day’s end we chaplains, 9 or 10 of us, were able to gather at an area restaurant where we had a room somewhat to ourselves, and a round table so we could carry on a single conversation. It was inspiring just to hear people identify themselves and what they do back home, and realize the wonderful breadth of talent and experience that was there, some with lengthy history working with AIDS victims, another from a children’s hospital ICU, a retired chaplain (who happened to be the unit chaplain on my clinical assignment for my first unit of CPE!) who is now pastoring two small Methodist churches in Wisconsin, etc., etc. Our “model” is an Integrated Care Team, made up of a chaplain, a mental health worker, a caseworker and a nurse, but we also have chaplains who go out to Disaster Recovery Centers, shelters and other places in the hard-hit areas. It is hard for me to not be going out any longer but it does seem that I am the person best qualified to do this managerial task right now, so my focus is on helping this talented group utilize their skills to meet the needs around here, which are still quite substantial.
On Sunday, we had the day mostly off, I went to mass at the Prince of Peace Church, a nice liturgy, so refreshing to see children and families etc., in “normal” situations; did laundry (first time in a long time I used a laundromat) and went to the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham which is across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church where the 6 girls were killed when the KKK bombed the church while they were in Sunday school – a turning point in the Civil Rights movement, as the whole world could see what the nature of the racist system really were. Last evening there was a get-together for as many Red Cross workers as could make it from around the state, to recognize and entertain as well as feed them. About 600 came (they had planned for 300-400) and we chaplains did the “Flexibility” song – lyrics I wrote to the tune of “Unforgettable” which I wrote when I was in Texas for Hurricane Ike. I changed the bits that had been specific to our Texas experience. It was fun, and appreciated. (Although less meaningful to me personally than singing “Workplace Blessing” a cappella for our morning meeting here at Headquarters last week.)
The stories are many and poignant. One is of a 6-yr.-old child who told the chaplain she had not been frightened during the tornado because her grandmother had taken her and her brother to the basement and read to them and held them. She knew something was going on, but felt safe with her grandmother. Fortunately that house was not one that the storm completely destroyed.
Blessings to all, prayers are welcome, especially for the people here. Recovery will be, as the Red Cross people say, a marathon, not a sprint. But lives are being touched.