About one year ago, displaced U.S. citizens from New Orleans arrived in Salt Lake City to begin a new life. There were many people from the Salt Lake community who met the incoming citizens beginning the recovery process of an experience that many, if not most, of us could hardly begin to understand. When I learned of the process of moving them from a local military installation into various Utah communities, my immediate thought was to ask where I could contribute money. However, there was an immediate feeling of abandoning them and erasing the situation from my mind. So, I decided to call Reverend France Davis of Salt Lake and suggested we form a support group to help with the transition of those displaced. After all, New Orleans to Salt Lake is not like New Orleans to Baton Rouge, Louisiana!
The first meeting we had consisted of ten individuals. One was Ernest Timmons. Ernest later was hired by Reverend Davis to be the tactical day-to-day person in support of the new residents’ needs. In this whole affair, Ernest is the “real hero!” I say this again, Ernest is the “real hero!” The individuals at the first meeting were, for the most part, highly positive, and empowered in their thinking. The word quickly spread about the group through tremendous assistance from the news media. In addition, Reverend Davis made announcements at his church. And ultimately, by word of mouth communication. Before we knew it, we were off and running.
My first thought was how to have those displaced go through the Kubler-Ross process of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Guilt and Acceptance. I instantly learned that I was in a dream world. Our friends were dealing with establishing their identity, securing food, shelter, and clothing; and learning about our grid system of the city and transportation system. Can you imagine being “dropped into” the U.S. with only the clothes on your back and no identification or money! Then proceeding to look for a job or enrolling your kids in school with no recoverable records. Our identities and accomplishments are established by pieces of paper not by our personhood in physical appearance.
Our first efforts were devoted to sharing stories and providing resources for getting through the coming week. Who needs what, when, and how do we help you get it? What about special medications, not to mention the psychological adaptation. In retrospect, our team of Ernest, Bill, and Reverend Davis unknowingly brought a holistic approach to our group efforts: Body, Mind, and Spirit. Ernest handled the day-to-day food, shelter, and clothing, and FEMA stuff. I handled the inspirational stuff to transition from victimhood to empowerment. And Reverend Davis handled the spiritual stuff. This combination was probably the key to our success.
This blog is getting long, so I’ll continue tomorrow with sequence.