I met Eloy Lora-Trejo Jr. in Dallas last week while attending a Feeding America Fall Conference. Eloy was not with a food bank. He is part of the staff of the Westin Hotel where the conference was held. When we struck up the conversation on Thursday, he told me that he had joined the Westin team in Dallas on Monday. I was a bit taken back at his ease in his new surroundings. He was engaging and made me feel very comfortable as if I was talking to someone I had known for a while. We talked for a minute about the local weather which was a line of strong thunderstorms moving through the area. I shared with him that I had arrived on Tuesday night and had taken public transportation from the airport to where I thought the hotel to be and had gotten within 4 blocks where I had to get off the bus.
The storm was raging and I had to walk carrying my luggage trying to navigate unfamiliar territory in a driving rain at night. My glasses were of no use and reading street signs was really difficult. I managed to take a wrong turn and headed in the wrong direction. The water was over my shoes as I crossed each street and no one was around to ask for directions. I did run across 3 young women huddling under one umbrella and walking quickly coming in the opposite direction across the street. They were laughing hysterically, but I can’t imagine who they were laughing at.
I got to the hotel and was greeted with gasps and jaws dropping as I entered the registration area with other people checking in. The person behind the counter called to get me a couple of towels, but I told him he just needed to get a mop for the puddle I left on the floor. I peeled off the soaking wet clothes and hung them over the bath tub, they dried 2 days later but the shoes didn’t. It really didn’t matter, it was just stuff.
Eloy shared with me that it was not his first week in the hotel industry. He was a supervisor at the JW Marriott on Marco Island up until 2 weeks before. He was there when Hurricane Irma hit the gulf coast. The storm surge completely flooded out the property with lots of collateral damage. His own home had been without power for over 2 weeks. He had invited his displaced friends who were completely wiped out to move in with him so they could at least have a place to sleep.
Eloy’s company had contacted him and said if he wanted they would send him to Dallas to work at the Westin who was short-staffed until things could get back to normal on Marco Island. The management of the Westin was allowing him to live there during his time to work on the property. He was talking about how truly blessed he was to have been connected with this opportunity during this transitional time. He was in communication with his friends who are still staying at his home until their circumstances change, but that could be some time as well. He was as cordial and accommodating as anyone you could ever want to meet and his home and surroundings were literally in shambles, how gracious is that! You could tell the guy was a “pro” in his field and was completely genuine.
Life happens to everyone. Sometimes it’s wet clothes and sometimes you’re completely displaced for months. Next time it could be the other way around. I hope I could rise to the occasion and follow his example. Let’s not forget to consider the other person while standing in wet shoes.
Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 115-member agencies and programs provides food assistance to more than 70,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.