Encouragement, Gratitude

How A Community Can Help in a Crisis

Thomas Fire, Ventura, CA 12-7-2017 photo by VCFD PIO

The fires here in Ventura County and adjoining Santa Barbara still rage. The fire consumed 265,000 acres with 40% containment this morning. However, the fire has redirected to the city of Montecito which is now under evacuation.

Hundreds lost homes, property, and pets. People remark those city icons and landmarks they’ve loved are no longer around. (We just hiked this area a week before the fire. Remarkably, the Serra Cross first erected in late 1700’s survived).

Before and After the Thomas Fire, Ventura, CA

 

People died. A woman and a Fire Fighter lost their lives to this fire. Hundreds more had to flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs.

Schools are closed because of the air quality. Most people need to wear a smoke filtering mask to go about their daily business.

All of this devastation disorients many people; more for those directly impacted by the fire and those who have no resources to stay with friends, relatives or in hotels.

I saw this loss in the eyes of those staying in Red Cross shelters and heard the stories of men, women, and children who lost everything and have no place to go.

What lifts the spirits and helps people go on is the work of many organizations, like the Red Cross, restaurants who donate food, community people and small businesses giving clothing and water. Cell phone providers donating charging stations.

Mental health staff, nurses, and children’s services came to help. Church communities reached out to provide resources and care.

Kids from schools made paper holiday wreaths, green and white linking handprints, which they gave to the shelters. Shelter clients looked up from their cots and smiled to see those decorations. Children hugged new donated stuffed animals.

Along the streets and near the base camp of the firefighting operations are “Thank You!” signs that parents and their children made. The Museum of Ventura County organized a free workshop for kids. I’m sure that weary eyes appreciate the gratitude.

Museum of Ventura County Thank You workshop for kids 12-2017

What gives people hope for this trying time is a sense of community, pulling together, everyone and anyone helping to ease discomfort and pain. In stressful times like these, what children learn is how their parents react to a crisis and how a community can help.

There is much more to do in the aftermath of this fire.

The website of the Thomas Fire Fund, set up by a coalition of emergency service groups, is taking monetary donations. You can also text “UWVC” to 41444 or call 805-485-6288. Thank you.

 

quote by M. Gandhi
Hope, Loss

Can We Move Towards Hope and Peace with a Hug?

quote by M. Gandhi

Like many others, I’m trying to understand what’s going on in our nation.

As a person who has been on both sides of the thin blue line (stopped over 50 times in my youth and a 30-year career in  criminal justice) it’s not difficult to understand how wounds fester and people get frustrated and beyond.

But to sniper kill police officers during a peaceful demonstration can never be the answer to an already wounded community and nation.  

To empathize with police officers and other law enforcement doesn’t mean we don’t empathize with peaceful Black Lives Matter protests.

To take a stand for one doesn’t mean you can’t take a stand for the other. One can be “pro cop” and “pro black lives matter.” It doesn’t have to be “either/or.”

One part of me understands the frustrations, the other part is sickened; the whole of me feels that the fear and worry will separate us more, but it is at this precise moment that we have to create hope.

I want to share this video which shone a light on an otherwise sorrowful week. This occurred after an interfaith prayer service in Dallas on July 8th. This YouTube video is from the Free Hugs Project.

 

 

We have to address systemic racism.

We have to find a way to work towards community and peace.

I don’t have the answer on “How” to do this but I know it can be done and it starts with individuals.

It won’t be easy but it will be worth stepping towards hope.

 

Family, Inspiration, Parenting, Strong Women

The Pope and My Mother

old 1950 Mercury car
1950 Mercury

I’m not a Catholic anymore, but like millions of people, I watched Pope Francis’ visit to Washington D.C and the other parts of America.

Since the day he became Pope, I admired his Christian demeanor and his actions above rhetoric. His compassion for the homeless, the children, and immigrants reminded me of a lesson my mother taught my siblings and I a long time ago.

Those were the days of welfare commodities, those big silver containers of oily peanut butter, Spam, powdered milk and eggs. Mom was a divorcee, a single parent with four kids who went to night school to get her diploma after her full-time job.

An asphalt parking lot separated the housing projects, the apartment buildings where we lived. The lot served as a playground for roller skating, a game of tag, or kickball between cars. 

Amid the old Chevy’s, work trucks, and cars on their last legs, sat a hulking tank of a car, decades old, early 1950’s Mercury. Rimless, faded paint, and worn tires made it look ready for the junk yard. The car had a larger front end than a behind with a huge dashboard full of newspapers and junk, blankets in the rear seat.

We found out a man lived in the car. White stubble dotted his chin and neck against the mahogany of his skin color. He appeared overweight since he wore layers of clothes. A black jacket with sweaters over shirts, blue overalls, red bandanas in his pocket. Skimpy mittens stretched over large hands to ward off the cold. He wore a Charlie Chaplin type hat.

The round man who matched his heavy set car slept in a parking lot of cars that left at dawn for the packing houses, dairy, or vegetable fields. Sometimes he used someone’s water hose to douse his head and face. Drying himself with his bandana.

Sometimes he got drunk on cheap wine, telling us he was from the south, never naming the state or maybe we didn’t ask. There was no work, his jalopy broke down near our apartments and he pushed it into the lot, living there ever since.

When he got drunk he’d reach into his pockets, pull out pennies and nickels and throw them into the air. Kids dove for the coins, it was like bolo, being at a Catholic baptismal when the baby’s godfather threw coins on the church steps to celebrate the event.

One morning he came to our back door, hat in hand, asking my mom if she had some spare bread, water, maybe a sandwich?

We watched her from the kitchen table, making a sandwich with some of our fried Spam. She found a mason jar and filled it with iced tea. He glanced from her to us, to his scuffed brown boots and back again, staring at the concrete.

He took his sandwich and tea with many thanks, a big smile, saying “God bless you,” several times. My mom nodded. When she shut the door one of us said something about the wino and why did she give him some of our food. She corrected us saying he was down on his luck, and he needed help. She grew up during the great depression and knew what hunger felt like and we were Catholics, it was our duty to help other people.

After that, mostly during payday, Mom would make him refried bean burritos, kept hot by wrapping them in aluminum foil. She filled the mason jar with tea and send us out to the parking lot to give to the man. The other neighbors occasionally fed him too, bringing him something they picked from the orchards or field. One day we went outside to play and his car was gone. 

I imagined he found a job, lived a better life, but I don’t know what happened to the homeless man. What I do remember is the compassion my mother showed to someone who was poorer than we were, reminding us we had a duty to help others.

Pope Francis quote on mercy and compassion
Pope Francis on Compassion

 

Art, Chingonas, Strong Women

Art and Community

Heart of the Sea by Ray Ferrer

 

While reading a favorite blogger’s post “Emotion on Canvas,” this image caught my attention. Truthfully, all of Ray Ferrer’s artwork catches my attention.

The majesty of the ship, shrouded in the indigo shadows of night and ocean, seemed ominous. The words in the January 26th post were more forbidding:

Hi Friends and Fans of Ray! This is his wife, Rhian Ferrer….
Tuesday morning I found Ray in bed having a seizure (he has never had one before) I brought him to the hospital and he is stable but has a massive baseball sized tumor in/on his brain.  He will be undergoing surgeries, radiation and chemo therapy in the upcoming months.

This young artist and his wife are now in for the fight of their lives. But fighters they are, as evidenced by Rhian’s post, yesterday:

As Ray deals with the hard news of a baseball sized brain tumor, I, his wife, am adding some of his works for public availability / purchase to offset some of the expenses and costs of his costly procedures.

Ray and his wife have their artwork on Etsy. This is the great gift, I bought for my daughter’s birthday, from Rhian’s site:

Frida Kahlo by Rhian Ferrer
Frida Kahlo by Rhian Ferrer

Go and check out Ray Ferrer’s site. They are so generous that even when they need all the funds they can get, Ray is discounting his art. Use coupon code ART50 for half off. 

His wife set up a GoFundMe site. She is the epitome of a strong woman, una buen chingona. (Loosely translated as a badass, strong woman.)

Writers, poets, artists and those who love the arts are a community. Prayers, healing energy, and strength to this couple and their family.

I hope you visit the Ferrer’s artist pages and make a purchase.