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Knowing How and When To Help…

I have a “helpful” friend who tries to help everyone she knows. I love her and know that she’s always up for helping but the problem is; she creates problems while trying help because she doesn’t listen to what is needed of her. I remember coming home one day with a car full of groceries, she saw me and wanted to help unload the car. I politely told her that I had it covered. She didn’t listen and loaded so much stuff in her arms that she dropped a bottle of wine, it shattered all over the driveway and my car. She must have been embarrassed because she turned the tables on me. She said had I told her that there was a bottle of wine in the bag, she wouldn’t have dropped it! Huh? I was out a good bottle of wine and I was now feeling terrible about the entire situation! How was that helpful? This is not uncommon behavior for her. She wants to do things her way and doesn’t recognize that she’s not helping when she creates more problems for those she’s trying to “help”.

I was reminded about the shattered wine bottle story when I read a post this week on a community group page on Facebook. A woman was going to rent a truck to drive down to Houston, Texas to drop off clothing for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, and she was asking for donations to make it happen. That same day, another woman thankfully posted this: “If you are looking to help in Houston, my friend shared this on a group page: Having lived through several disasters and managed emergency situations a few suggestions:

Do not just show up. Not at a shelter, not in a disaster, not at a non-profit and expect someone trying to manage a crisis to find something for you to do. If you are untrained, make your availability known and wait until called. Otherwise, you may become another problem to be solved. And if you really are moved by this stuff, get trained. Learn a skill and sign up before the next crisis.

The people managing this stuff know what they are doing. Learn their systems and try to be helpful. Don't walk into to a thing for the first time and start telling people how to do their jobs. This has happened to me in every single crisis I've ever managed or worked at. Someone who has literally been in the place for an hour comes and tells us how they've ignored our system and are doing it better. Not. Helpful. I now have to spend several hours fixing something.

There are times when we feel good when we make ourselves available to people in need, whether it’s a family member, friend, or a stranger. I applaud everyone who tries to help those in need. I’m with you 100%. However, we create problems when we don’t know what we’re doing! This natural disaster in Texas and now Louisiana, remind me to pay attention to what’s really needed, not, what I think is needed, because I can create bigger issues for those who are trained to deal with emergencies like these. My heart breaks for every person affected by Hurricane Harvey. But the heartbreak doesn’t keep me from doing my homework to find out what is needed and where. I had to read news stories, articles on social media, and listen to my friends who have relatives that have lost their homes. I educated myself on what organization was making a big difference right now and donated money to that organization.

I had so many ideas on how I wanted my money to be used but I’m not there. I don’t know what’s needed to rescue people and animals, or get them food and clean water. I’ve never experience anything like this myself, and while my intentions are good, there’s no way my intention alone will feed and help those in need. The people on the ground know best, so find them! Look for the helpers and offer your support, and then listen. They’ll tell us what they need. This isn’t a photo opportunity for social media to brag about how you're helping, it’s a human crisis that needs our open hearts and minds, minus the ego. Namaste.

-Fabiola

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