Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Served Up

This is unexpected, I thought.  I came to the Shelter to help cook for the hundred or so people expected that afternoon.  Granted, I was shamed into guilt for not acting on good intentions.  I stood, gazing toward the far end of that small kitchen.  I felt as contrite as a little boy whose mother had baked him sweets despite his slothfulness in doing something for her.  

So, here’s what happened.  Weeks before, my wife, Stascia, and I were making arrangements with another family concerning our kids.  The other family’s schedule conflicted because they were going to help out at a place called Inner City Night Shelter. 

My wife is an educator.  She helps people every day by just having a conversation about a personal issue or helping someone attain an educationally related goal.    The family to which we spoke helped feed people trying to get their lives back.  Me, I give to causes.  I write about causes.  My articles support those on the ground doing the work.  There is a need for those types of things, but I am not on the ground with them.  In this sense, I am removed and impersonal to those whom I am ultimately trying to help support.   My perch has me away from following the timeless principles of a more personal presence like visiting, serving, and helping to bear a burden.  My more “physical presence” efforts were sporadic and far… very far between.   So, there I was defenseless against words that really weren’t directed at me or meant to cause conviction.  People were just talking.

On Saturday, March 15, 2014, I arrived at Inner City Night Shelter, Arnold St, Savannah, GA.  The shelter provides services for men and women.  Individuals can spend the night, take a shower, and have a meal.  Through transitional services, the shelter provides help into a more stable situation.  This includes helping former inmates as well.  

I took a moment to look around the room.  The door was about ½ meter behind me to the left.  A walk-in refrigerator and a walk-in freezer made the wall directly behind me.  White cabinets lined the walls to my front left – doors up top, drawers and doors on the bottom topped by a counter.  The counter had a sink in it.  A stainless steel table stood in front of me.  To my right, there was a gas stove with a hood.  Next to the stove was a small sink.  About six steps away, on the far wall, was a three-basin stainless steel sink with a commercial dishwasher to the left of it.  And there I was, staring at the dishwasher, dumbfounded and undone by what should have been obvious.  That is, in this one place, as in many other places, there are many needs.  Those needs range from something as simple as putting a sandwich on a plate to something more complex that actually required a philosophically dyed in the wool life-cycle asset manager. 

Dishwasher All Shiny and Back In Action
I walked over to do a visual inspection.  The detergent lines were cut.  I figured the device wasn’t working.  The Shelter is not a place to just let something that works go unused.  Someone had probably used the lines to serve another need.    I asked some of the other food preparation team members about it.  They said it had been broken for some time.  The team introduced themselves and went to work preparing sandwiches and a hot meal.  They told me to connect with the center’s director, Yvonne Pryor.  The machine would have to wait until we were done preparing food.   

Later, Ms Pryor and I spoke about the dishwasher.  She had planned to purchase a new one because of the information she received that it was better to buy a new one.  We made arrangements for me to come back and troubleshoot the machine.  

A couple of weeks later, Ms Pryor and I looked at the dishwasher again.  She helped watch the detergent pumps to see if they were all cycling while I watched the camshaft that controlled the pumps, listened for solenoids, and checked the hot water pressure.  I hadn’t been able to find a service manual for the ten to fifteen year old machine.  Yet, there was still a certain amount I could tell about its operation.  The hot water flowed.  The water pumped worked.  The camshaft turned.  The detergent pumps cycled.  The water drained.  Granted, without a manual, there was no way of telling if every cycle was correct.  But, it did not look like Inner City Night Shelter needed a new one.  From previous research, I saw that parts were still available.  Only a minor repair was required.  What Ms. Pryor needed was an economical, simple, and self-sustaining method that maintained the machine, trained the staff, helped with continuous health department certification, all in a manner that was basically effortless for her to manage. Without going into the detail, that’s what we accomplished.

Writing about causes and helping to support those on the ground in places I cannot be present are still very important.  I continue to do them.  As they say, the rub is the commitment to take the time to be present where I can.  In the hustle of taking care of family, of bridging a strategy to results that generate revenue, of filtering the noise to meet a customer’s needs, of writing, posting and supporting the next blog post, of marketing my novel, of just hustling from one moment to the next in a calm and collected manner… how do you turn good intentions into physical presence at a place that serves others.  Those already on the ground need more team members.  As in the case of Inner City Night Shelter, it may require physical tasks and your professional know-how.