Over the last few weeks, we have talked about what you can do to be a great volunteer. We have talked about the importance of flexibility, giving to the need, and your rights as a volunteer. These topics cover some of the most important aspects of volunteering. If we could have the opportunity to sit down with every person who wanted to give of their time or resources after a disaster, these are the top topics that we would cover. We really hope that these subjects will help people to be in the right mindset to be an amazing volunteer to a community full of people in need.
Being in the right mindset is really what preparing is all about. Doctors go through years of schooling and thousands of hours of practice in order to train their mind and body to react correctly in emergency situations. Musicians train for hours a day for years on end in order to train their body to play an instrument flawlessly when it comes time for the performance. Artists will draw the same subject over and over and over again until they get it just right. Psychologist Dr. K. Anders Ericsson did extensive research on the amount of practice time it takes to achieve expert performance. He came to the conclusion that it requires at least ten years or 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to have an expert performance. That is a lot of practice! Most of all- that is a lot of trying! And that is probably a lot of mistakes.
We are not perfect people. We all live in bodies that are bombarded with opportunities to sin and hurt others on a daily basis. More times than not, it seems like we fall into that trap. We end up hurting people that we are really trying to love. As you go out to volunteer in a disaster area, please prepare yourself to be around people who fall short just like you. Prepare yourself to make mistakes, and to know how to recover from them. The one thing that is always constant in a disaster area is stress. Volunteers and leaders are under enormous amounts of stress because of the constant changing of situations and circumstances. Homeowners are under enormous amounts of stress because their lives have just been turned upside down. Even government and nonprofit officials are under stress because of the amount of pressure that is on them to help the community recover quickly. Stress is the breeding ground for sin. We need to prepare ourselves to fall short, and for those around us to fall short. We need to remember that everyone is still practicing, and that very few of us have put in the hours necessary for an expert performance. We need to come prepared with extra grace and understanding. We need to keep our egos and pride in check so that we can quickly apologize for our mistakes and quickly forgive others. We need to learn not to hold grudges, but to realize that something bigger is at stake than our own pride. Lives are at stake. Eternities are at stake. Even if we cannot agree on everything, we should be willing to work together to show the love of Christ to those in hurting situations. After all, that is what being a disaster response volunteer is all about, and that is what we should being preparing for!