“There’s trouble at Mill”.
That is the phrase (allegedly) used by mill owners in the North of England when the workers became restless (usually for a very good reason).
It’s how I felt at Resurrection House today. M.B. (another volunteer) and I got downright testy with a few of our guests. They were pressing us to provide services on a morning when the facility was stretched to its limits. We, the volunteers, can only do as much as time allows.
One guest was lying to me, and trying to manipulate me. I knew it, and I called his bluff in a blunt and fierce manner.
Another guest (a woman for whom I am very fond) got very “shirty” with me when I said “no, I cannot take in your laundry - we are backed up”. When she challenged me on this I was equally “shirty” in my response.
My colleague M.B. was pushed to the limits by another guest for whom he was doing a favour.
Well, we wish that we could always be gentle and sweet with our homeless friends. We want to do this, but sometimes our patience is stretched.
At Resurrection House it is stretched because (especially on Monday mornings) we have too many guests. We could probably serve 80 folks with some modicum of efficiency, but when 150 or so homeless people enter, we simply cannot cope.
I understand the frustration of our guests (they are treated despicably in every part of their lives).
But what I do not understand is why leadership cannot lead.
Our Director is a fine and dedicated “bloke”, but he cannot say “no”. Great leaders know when to say “yes” and when to say “no”.
The Co-ordinator of volunteers is a wonderful woman, but she leads by reaction, rather than by action.
In other words, she is helpful enough when we encounter problems, but she never takes pro-active steps to ward off the problems before they occur.
It’s hard to serve the poor.
It ‘s fabulous to serve the poor.
But if you are in any position of leadership - do, please remember that “leadership must lead”.
If you do not know and do this, you may well lose your volunteer help.