Remember the TV show “MacGyver?” He could make an atomic bomb with a paper clip.
In preparation for Hurricane Florence, I became him. I was concerned the power would go out at the Charlotte Rescue Mission. Since we couldn’t get a generator, I was prepared to connect an auto battery to an inverter. It converts 12 volts DC to 120 volts AC. Then I could run lights, pumps, etc. I had two batteries in my trunk. I think I was a little disappointed we didn’t lose power.
Let me tell you my Hurricane Florence story. It began when the county asked the Charlotte Rescue Mission to serve as an overflow shelter for The Salvation Army and the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte. We were also asked if we would take intact couples or families. Otherwise, they would be split between those two agencies. We agreed to all this.
On Friday, we opened our doors to our community guests. That first night, we brought them to the chapel, which we converted into an emergency shelter dorm. A few years before, a friend of Charlotte Rescue Mission asked us if we wanted four-inch foam mats. We agreed in the event a hurricane ever came through our area. Friday night, our guests slept on those mats.
I think the stress of not doing emergency disaster work in over 30 years got to me. My leadership team is reading the book, “The Emotionally Healthy Leader.” The chapter we are reading had a lot in it. I decided to break it down into three sections and told them that in a text. It said, “I’m breaking down Emotionally Healthy” (that’s all that showed on their phone). They thought I was losing it.
Another incident involved a text my wife sent me. It said, “I lost the TV.” I interpreted that to say the cable service went out. Trying to be the hero, I called the cable company and explained we did not have cable service. They assured me there was no problem, but would reboot my connection. When I called my wife to tell her how her wonderful husband had resolved the dilemma, she said it’s not that the cable service went out; it’s that our son-in-law took over the TV. I took off my mask and cape and decided I was not a superhero.
On Saturday, we received a shipment of cots and put the mats on top of the them. I asked one of our guests how it felt. One man said, “It feels really good.” I told them we were the only emergency disaster shelter with a pillow top on their cot. Everyone smiled.
We had great chats with people. Staff and volunteers engaged in conversation with our community guests. Some agreed to be enrolled in our long-term residential recovery programs. As the hurricane was leaving our area, it was my prayer that it would take with it the horrific past our guests had endured in their lives.
Perhaps my biggest “take away” is the transformation in our guests between Friday and Saturday. I watched them arrive nervous, not knowing what to expect. As the weekend progressed, they changed from being “guests” to becoming family. That trust gave us the chance to introduce them to the life0-changing work of the Charlotte Rescue Mission.
I know those days disrupted normal Charlotte Rescue Mission operations. No one complained. I watched clients and staff step up to the plate. Not only did they open our facility to our most fragile neighbors, they opened their hearts. We went from being strangers to becoming a community.
I’ll be back soon. Until then, live well my friend.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is the president/CEO of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. Go to www.charlot terescuemission.org for details.