Curb your inclination to want to try to solve everyone’s problems. It doesn’t make you a less compassionate person. It just keeps you sane. For one thing, you rob someone of their dignity when you try to take care of everything for them. It takes a while to develop a sense of what’s right and what’s too much.
Go slowly. How can you do too much, you may ask? They need everything, don’t they? You’ll know that you’ve done too much the first time you have to refuse someone something and all hell breaks loose because you’ve taken care of everything else up to now. Resist the urge to set yourself up as Santa Claus or the Good Fairy. It’s really quite insulting to your clients and exhausting for you. We probably lose more volunteers because of this than anything else.
Trying to take care of everything doesn’t work. It doesn’t do anybody any good and eventually it just burns you out. Then you leave and feel guilty the rest of your life. As Project Dignity founder Linda Dunlap was fond of saying, “Love doesn’t always look like you think it should”. She was 100% right. (She usually was.)
The purpose of what we do is to show love. Sometimes, just like you do with your children, the most loving thing you can do is to say “No”. Always, always, always say it with compassion and love. Don’t stumble around and apologize. Let your yes be yes and your no be no.
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: