“Hurry up and wait” was the running joke during my deployment in Mississippi. When we had our first meeting as a sheltering group we were told that flooding is different than any other kind of disaster because you don’t always know where the water will go but certain areas need to be covered “just in case”. When I got to Headquarters in Jackson, MS I needed to sign-in and wait for an assignment. I waited and waited and waited with a different motel room every night and re-packed my suitcase every morning. It was interesting to see how Headquarters runs and the different jobs they have but it was a tad frustrating. The problem was I had too many expectations for my first deployment when I really just needed to be “flexible” which is an on-going concept at the Red Cros.
Once I embraced the situation and realized that I had no control over any of it, it was easier for me to relax and try and enjoy all Mississippi had to offer. And I did. The south was amazing! The “southern hospitality” was a refreshing change from the elitist attitude of California. Don’t get me wrong! I love Cali but there’s an authenticity that lacks there sometimes, especially in the LA area. Another thing I loved about the south was the food! From the crunchy outside and creamy inside fried green tomatoes to the luscious and silky texture of the frozen custard, it was amazing. The night life wasn’t bad either. I ran into a volunteer from my home chapter that was working in Headquarters who had a car (hard to come by!) so she picked me up for dinner and there was live music! It was soulful and raspy, needless to say I was very impressed.
After four days hanging out at headquarters we finally got our assignment. Our shelter was stationed in a small town called Mound Bayou: The Oldest U.S. All Black Municipality that was founded by ex-slaves in 1887. When our group of 10 Red Cross volunteers got into town we were graciously greeted by Mayor Johnson at the Community Center where the shelter would be. The town was very poor and every other store or restaurant was shut down. The people were very pleasant and grateful that we were there even though they didn’t understand why (and neither did we). We couldn’t figure out where or when the water was going to come but either way, we were there to support the community so that’s what we did. In every store, gas station or restaurant I went to, I told them who we were and what we were doing there to get the word out.
Over all, the experience was very humbling and challenging. Even though we did not have clients, over the 7 days we were there, I was filled with pride when informing the public of our intentions. I am grateful for the experience even though it was not “ideal” or what I had in mind, and hope to go out on another DR before my AmeriCorps term finishes in September.