The fact you aren’t homeless and can come and go at will, coupled with all of the services you provide gives you a huge amount of power with your clients.
I learned this the hard way one day. Luckily once was enough to change my attitude forever. I think anyone who makes a decision to serve as a volunteer does it out of the purest of motives, meaning only good things for the people they serve. Certainly they never mean harm, but it happens.
One day out in the motels I was feeling tired, cranky, whatever—it doesn’t really matter now, this isn’t about me (and that is the point). My mind & heart weren’t in the right place. One of our clients, Sandy, complained that we didn’t have something she needed. I snapped back just as crossly as she did. The transformation in Sandy was instant and devastating to me.
She cringed, she actually cringed. She deflated right in front of my eyes and began to apologize profusely. We smoothed it over and went on. However, at 3 o’clock in the morning, (which is when I tend to do my best reflecting) I cried that I had that much power over another human being. I didn’t want that much power. I turned it over to the Lord and asked him to please help me to never do that again.
Of all the mistakes I continue to make, that’s one I never made again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still far from a sugary sweet “church” lady, but when someone does ask for something we don’t have in a demanding manner, I’m much more inclined to handle it with humor, rather than irritation and arrogance. I tell them, “You know, we’re like Big Lots. We’re a different store every week. We never know what we’re gonna get”.
This generally produces a laugh and understanding that we really are just doing the best we can. Other times I may point to my truck and say, “This ain’t no Magic Bus”. Laughing together provides a commonality. It also produces those feel good endorphins, which are invaluable when you’re dealing with people you don’t really know.
This is an excerpt from the free “Serving the Homeless in Motels” eBook, which you can find out more about here, or download right now: