It’s Not About You

Volunteers. We need you so badly. We’re better organized. And you are coming. I am so grateful. But I need to talk to you about what you do in the shelter.

I stopped at least a dozen people yesterday from taking photos in the guest sleeping areas of NRG shelter. People who showed up and signed up to volunteer. Taking photos.

No matter how you conceive of the situation, it’s just wrong. Our guests are living here. They are sleeping here. Praying and hoping here. And you’re wandering through taking photos. Even though we told you not to. I think I’ll show up at your house tonight and catch a few snaps of you sleeping in your bedroom. Grab a selfie in your living room. How about it? (Grouchy)

I said “stop and don’t do it again or else you have to leave” to one young man who responded, “You could say it nicer”.

No, I really can’t. This is your moment to pay attention. To walk into a situation and learn something important about the human journey. I don’t want you to miss it because you’re grabbing a shot. When you leave write about your insights and what you learned. Don’t tell their story – tell what you worked on and how you helped. That’s your story. When you showed up and you helped.

I’ll never forget the disaster tourists in New Orleans after Katrina. They didn’t want to do anything to help. They just wanted to snatch a “I was here!” photo. Of heartbreak and destruction.

I not only want you to stop with the photos I want you to stop putting a lens between you and our guests. And look at them and think, “but for a whole lot of good fortune, that could be me.” Be present and engaged. Learn something about your neighbors and about yourself. Really.

Their need for shelter is not our invitation for glory. Do the job you came to do. It’s about the work. It’s not about you.