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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Scott's Thoughts - by Scott Wells » » Houston Magicians' Response to Hurricane Katrina (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Scott Wells
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Houston, TX
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There has been a lot of relevant discussion among our group on ideas and the merits of assisting the Katrina victims particularly as magicians with our skills and talents. Some of you may have wondered why I, a Houston resident, haven’t weighed in yet on the plight of those displaced Louisiana natives to our area. I have read with great interest the suggestions of many of you and others outside our group as to how best to proceed with giving assistance. Our basic altruistic nature as human beings begs that we help because, “there but by the grace of God go I.” And that never rang more true than for Houstonians. We missed a big bullet...this time. As I write these words I am seeing news reports of the next hurricane, Rita, that is headed for the Gulf of Mexico and has a bead on Texas. We trust that God's grace is sufficient. But as to the greater good, I have found the outpouring of time, gifts, and service to have been absolutely awe-inspiring from the whole community and indeed the world. What I have seen in our community has left me without words.

All of our hearts go out to people in tragic situations and we all want to help in any way we can. Even though the center of the trouble may be thousands of miles away, as was the case with the recent tsunami, we all reach out in any way to relieve suffering and pain any way we can. When it struck the coastline of Louisiana and Mississippi and forced evacuees into our neighborhood, then “helping your neighbor” took on a whole different meaning. We didn’t have to look far to see who our neighbor was and how we can help. They were now literally just a few miles from my front door. The obvious and most immediate response came in the way of monetary assistance. I understand from the news reports that more money was raised for this disaster in quicker time than for any other, including the tragedy that affected the World Trade Center.

We have all read and seen the news stories about the slow response of FEMA or other governmental organizations. It seems they were obviously not prepared for something of this magnitude. But despite what you may have seen or read, local citizens (supplemented by a lot of outside people) have done so much that has not been seen on television. Churches, local fraternal organizations, neighborhood groups, companies, and individuals have all rallied from disparate parts of our community to work together and in harmony lending assistance in handing out food and water, sorting clothing, lifting and carrying boxes, and distribution and other logistics that would otherwise seem insurmountable. When times are tough it calls for people to be tough and roll up their sleeves. Everyone across the city has been helping in one way or another through their physical or monetary support, or both. And for those of you have offered your thoughts, prayers and your financial assistance, I am certain those benefactors are forever indebted.

But as it pertains to the magic community and offering our entertainment services, we have had many who wanted to do something in any way they could. When we first heard of the storm hitting and hearing that we would soon be hosting a large number of evacuees, we rallied the cry for entertainment. A local magician, Jamie Salinas, was the first to take charge by contacting the Red Cross to see what could be done. He realized that there would soon be a need to entertain those who would be without hope or material possessions. He recognized that the children would not understand what was going on but their world needed some stability and there had to be some way to bring a smile to those who had nothing to smile about. Tens of thousands of evacuees were coming and we all wanted to help, but it was Jamie who took charge for our group. After the initial contact, he sent out an e-mail to our list server of about 100 magicians most of whom rallied to the cry and committed to assist in any way possible.

As you saw on the news, there were other more pressing issues and entertainment was not on their radar. Basic needs of food, clothing and shelter had been swept away and as you know from Maslowe’s Hierarchy of Needs, nothing else is important until that foundation is laid for other building blocks to follow. Rightly so, the Red Cross and others had security concerns and it was important that anyone directly assisting the evacuees had adequate training as well as a thorough understanding of what volunteers were going to be up against before allowing access into the Astrodome. Furthermore, the authorities were anxious to move the evacuees out of the Astrodome and into more permanent shelter. The evacuees were perhaps even more anxious to move out of such public quarters. It was difficult if not impossible to get into the Dome to entertain. Even those from outside Houston who traveled here with the hope of performing bore gifts and found it difficult even to distribute toys, coloring books and other personal donations directly to those in need.

Over the course of the next two weeks we waited for word to come down from the Red Cross through Jamie to tell us how, when and where we could be dispatched. In the meantime, a few of our group found ways to assist small pockets of displaced individuals in hotels by entertaining during meal services. As more and more of the refugees were moved out of the Astrodome, our hopes grew more and more dim until all the evacuees were totally removed. In the end, Jamie was never able to get the Red Cross to allow any of us the opportunity to perform directly for those most affected by the storm. We have been asked as a local community of magicians to help by sending money to buy Teddy Bears as part of a Wizard-Bear Project which plans to disseminate thousands of bears for the children victimized by Katrina. That project has been posted elsewhere but I would be glad to send further information to anyone who wants to send me a private message. However on a positive note, there have been fundraisers across the city where some magicians have been able to donate their time to performing.

As mentioned earlier, the good intentions and plans of those who wish to physically travel to Houston and entertain for the evacuees will in the end remain just as that for the rest of us local magicians…good intentions and plans. There may be opportunities that we missed but it wasn’t from a lack of trying and our spirit was willing and decks of cards were ready, but alas…

We thank all of you who have offered your time and even those of you who actually did travel here in an attempt to help by wanting to perform. I’m sure you did help but perhaps not in the way you had originally intended. Your good nature and offerings I'm sure have been received and multiplied in ways you or I cannot imagine.

And on a personal note, I am thankful to Jamie Salinas for recognizing a need and trying to make a difference. And I am thankful to be a part of such a caring organization of dedicated, caring, like-minded individuals in our magic fraternity.
"A magician who isn't working is only fooling himself." - Scott Wells, M.I.M.C. with Gold Star

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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Scott's Thoughts - by Scott Wells » » Houston Magicians' Response to Hurricane Katrina (0 Likes)
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