Know when to say when. It’s sad to think about, but there may come a time when you need to stop serving at a particular motel for a while, or worse yet, leave it altogether. This should only happen in the most extreme conditions, but it can happen. The most obvious one is if you find yourself and your volunteers in danger beyond your control. If this happens, you leave and live to serve another day, at another motel.
Another untenable situation can occur when you’ve been serving at a particular motel for a while and the residents begin to take your services for granted. They expect you to pay their rent, give them gift cards, bring them food, etc. and become testy and abusive if you don’t “grant all their wishes”.
This can occur if you’re too quick to solve problems or jump right in to fill needs without letting your clients have the dignity of thinking through their problems themselves. Why should your clients find other resources if you’re always popping up, taking care of everything? You’ve not only made them very comfortable where they are, you may also have taken away their incentive to be anywhere else. You have crippled them.
Real love and servitude means serving with the purpose of elevating and motivating your clients. It should never include serving so much that you take away the need to be resourceful and self-reliant. Be very vigilant not to create your own “Failure to Launch” situations.
If you find yourself with an uneasy feeling that you may be drifting toward this, you need to quickly adjust what you’re doing. It’s probably still early enough to do it without any major angst. Don’t be the ATM when someone’s rent is due if they just asked you last month or last week for help. Run out of gift cards if you must when you notice that someone asks you for them every time they see you. It’s a hard thing to do when you’ve created a pattern, but you are the only one who can fix it.
If you’ve let it go too long and have created a mess, decide quickly what you need to do. If at all possible don’t just stop going to the motel, unless the atmosphere is now dangerous. If that’s the case, say a loving “goodbye” and stick to it, even when the phone calls continue to come.
If it’s not dangerous but just obvious that you’re over serving, stop being so available. Learn to say “Sorry, can’t do it this time” (and don’t!!). Don’t go to the motel as often as you used to. People have a marvelous capacity to adjust to whatever you require of them. It takes work and patience, but you must do it if you really want to help your clients learn to survive in a hard, hard world. Remember, you are not the only service provider in the world. There are always other sources your clients can call on.
You’ve not been called to be Santa Claus or the Fairy Godmother. If you think so, you’re wrong and don’t belong in a serving ministry. If you need to, repeat the physician’s directive as your mantra, “First, do no harm”. Your clients are vulnerable enough without you adding to their problems.