This Saturday I’m taking my picking partner, Willie Weeks, on a road trip to Florence, South Carolina to pay back a debt I’ve owed the Red Cross for awhile. We’re playing for a benefit at Southern Hops and Brewery. Ten bands are on tap for the Pee Dee Chapter of The American Red Cross starting at 12:00 noon. We play around 3:45 pm. Y’all come support a good cause. It’s hurricane season and you might be the one needing help. I did one time.
Way back in a previous life, I had to get up and be at a specific place at a specific time. I sure did. I was a lineman for the telephone company. During these years I helped restore service after many storms. The two biggest were the tornado outbreak in 1984 and Hurricane Hugo in 1989. It was during these two storms that I became aware of how much the Red Cross helps after a disaster.
A basic formula followed after a storm is damage assessment, damage removal, temporary service restoration, and permanent service restoration. During the first three of these steps the adrenaline flows like that of a first responder, emotions run high, and long hours that turn into weeks of hard work are required. I remember the Red Cross crews coming through the neighborhoods where we were working, offering food to the volunteers and people in need. All of us working on the phone lines would always politely refuse. We didn’t feel that we were the ones in need. The Red Cross workers would still stop to offer and a bond of friendship formed as we were all united in the same cause. They are a group of dedicated, selfless individuals.
The temporary restoration part of this process is a lot like improvisation in music. You have to be inventive to get around obstacles in the way. When you’re physically tired, emotionally drained, and can’t reach a consensus on how to do something, tempers start flaring and that’s when accidents happen. One day we were in the middle of a heated argument when our friend from the Red Cross came by. The way I remember it, somebody screamed at him to go help people that need it. He backed his truck up to where we were, got out, and said, “That’s what I’m gonna do”. He became as abrupt with us as we had been with him, and insisted we all sit down, drink some juice, and eat a sandwich. He preached to us about stress in disasters and shared some horror stories. Soon we were all laughing, apologizing, and ready to go back to work. Was a mini disaster averted in the middle of the big one? Probably was. After that day we realized that the Red Cross was there for us too, and started partaking in the juice and sandwiches when our friend came around. It’s the little things that get the big job done.
I’ll leave you with the Red Cross’ public service announcement that has John Mayer performing his song, “Heart of Life.” Hope to see you tomorrow!