Community Preparedness

So, we recently had a great emergency exercise with five different communities: Vietnamese, Korean, Denver Indian intertribal, Hispanic, and multi-ethnic Muslim communities with different community organizations leading. I can’t go into the details here, but I have to comment about the amazing efforts everyone involved put forward. Folks had practiced and studied courses online at FEMA, had taken Citizen’s Emergency Response Team training, which is not a short training, and even explored Ham radio.

I have to say that this was the culmination of years of work they’ve done previously. I’ve been working with all of them for five years now at least. And it is the best thing about my job. Everywhere I went, people graciously put up with my ignorance of their cultures and took the time to educate me and work with me on everything from incident command to complicated and ever-changing  administrative paperwork.

And sometimes I went with Rosa, if my husband couldn’t watch her, and people bent over backwards entertaining her, and asked after her when she wasn’t with me. In fact, ‘How is Rosa doing?” was usually followed up with, “So when are you going to have more?” Which goes to show that however different our cultures, they are not so different, since that is also a  frequent question from my family. I think she got a lot out of coming with me too. She knows that the way we do things at home or in Adam or my families’ cultures are only one of many ways we might be doing them.

My husband is Ojibway among a couple other things, and we got Rosa her tribal registration card last year, when we visited Grandma on the reservation. She is also Catholic. So when we got her blessed in the Church, she had a million questions about Jesus I couldn’t answer.

I am Jewish, though I am a pathetically horrible at being a Jew. I eat pork ribs with enthusiasm, and my mom has to remind me when the holidays are. Even my non-Jewish friends are usually more aware than I am of impending High Holy Days. But nevertheless, however rule-impaired and calendar-impaired I am, I am aware of the traditions, and Rosa got her Hebrew name, with a lot of assistance from my parents.

But her trips with me to the community organizations, to the Spanish-speaking Catholic church, to the mosque, to the Vietnamese or Korean churchs or temples, to the Indian community center are really instructive for both of us.

We’ve had a chance to talk about the hijab worn by Muslim women, about Jesus, which I needed help explaining since I’m not as familiar, and about different countries’ versions of those. And since she’s five, she doesn’t really think twice about any of the political nonsense that binds adults and makes us cranky and nuts.

We picked a school for her with an emphasis on multiple ethnicities in the student body. And I really believe that Rosa will grow up not ‘color-blind’, (I hate that expression, because you have to have lots of differences to make a painting), but appreciative of living in a global society.

I love working with different communities. It makes me pay more attention to my own culture. I’m actually better about knowing Jewish things than I was before I started working with non-Jewish communities, and it makes life more interesting. It puts a check on my cynicism when I go to a meeting with folks in any of the communities and they are welcoming and excited to work on preparedness and helping not just their own community members, but other communities. In fact, working with folks, especially with Rosa around, has made both of us acutely aware that however different we are, we all have more in common. Especially when family, and love of food are brought up, particularly dessert.

I get really cynical, especially when I read superlative but dreadfully depressing works like The Road. I wind up crying my eyes out for a whole day because I know that if we took a wrong turn, some version of that story would be possible. But then I go to a community meeting for work, and I know that as long as there are folks like that around, we’ll be okay.


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