Sunday, June 3, 2007

PART 3: HELPING/SERVING - OBSERVATIONS ON VOLUNTEERS AND HELPING



THERE SEEMS TO BE TWO 'ARCHETYPES' OF EMBODIED BEINGS WHO HAVE BEEN DRAWN TO NEW ORLEANS AFTER KATRINA


There are people whom I have met who are here to help who have their own inner experiences of being wounded or ‘broken‘, who seem to come to dissolve or annul or solve* something within themselves through their experiences of helping.

The opposite archetype seems to be the wounded or ‘broken’ who infringe, ignore, or act contrary to (a law, rule, promises, etc.)*, those who come ‘to take what does not belong to them, steal and cheat’. Many who are sociopaths and psychopaths, who seem to feed upon the suffering and misery of people who are vulnerable and unaware of this level of deception in their fellow human being (note: others are quite aware of this behavior and know the signs, often teaching me a thing or two about how to be in the streets and take care of myself). As an example, I was told by someone who works in a real-estate office, about a man who was running a con, stealing the first months rent and deposit given to the homeless through Catholic Charities to help them start a new life. He would claim to be renting out apartments and place ads, an when people responded to his for rent advertisements, the homeless, often not having much recent rental experience, would find the apartments that had been rented out to them, did not exist, leaving them homeless once again and betrayed.

From those two archetypes come people whom I have met who have been ‘broken’ by the experiences of embodied existence before coming to New Orleans. Something within them had shattered, burst, or become broken; separate into parts or fragments*, their ‘brokenness’ had caused some aspect of themselves to become detached, separated, or disassociated* from society, a society for the most part that is often meaninglessness and superficial; which celebrates materialism, egocentricity, self-absorption and is more often than not, apathetic in response to political corruption. New Orleans it seems, offers those who seek it, outlets to ‘help’ in meaningful ways in the midst of all of the presenting societal abnormalities. It seems to offer those who come to help, an opportunity to heal their own ‘brokenness’ to free oneself or escape - to dawn*; to find their hearts once again and break the armoring which once kept them protected by fueling their anger (at perceived and real injustices) and kept them in a separated state from the hearts and from the hearts of others. And for their polar opposites, New Orleans offers many opportunities to exploit those who are suffering, confused or overwhelmed, through corruption, causing for these souls, a further break within that which is already ‘broken’.

I have met people who are drawn to New Orleans to help who are ‘broken’ who I believe consciously or unconsciously, have come to impair or weaken the power, effect, or intensity of * their inner ‘brokenness’ through the experience of helping. Many want to help and some 'give it try'. Some make it and the experience of helping those in need - to give where opportunities present themselves for giving freely - heal and grow. Some, I have noticed, who stay for long periods of time within organizations who have become ‘broken’ themselves, that is they have trained away from a habit or practice*, of maintaining high standards in regards to ethical and moral behavior (not religious, but sometimes can be); which if were in place, may have helped these volunteers to rise above their inner demons. Instead what I have seen is that those whom I have met who are like this, become disillusioned by the corruption and politics they witness within the non-profit, and allow this to be a justification for getting involved with stealing, the selling and using of drugs, and/or alcohol abuse. Sometimes these behaviors are a continuation of previous patterns of substance abuse; for some, the intensification of this pattern is brought to the fore so to speak, by the glamour and decadence of the French Quarter or by the sense of internal overwhelm in response to the opportunities for engaging in behaviors that gravitate towards pathologies that had already been manifesting within them before their coming to New Orleans.

There are people who I have met, who come to New Orleans to volunteer perhaps for a week, 2 weeks, some for a month, some stay for many months or even years. Depending on what it is they are seeking or not though their giving and their helping - some become more whole within themselves, more loving and caring. (Usually those who are here for shorter periods of time and have lots of energy and hope in their hearts). Others, sincerely wanting to make a difference in the world, get to New Orleans, give much of themselves for many months and then burnout. More often than not, those who are long-termer’s, they stay for months or longer, can become jaded, angry, numb, ‘broken’ (of the heart) to be overwhelmed with sorrow*, if they do not have healthy outlets for processing their experiences and ethical “walking their talk” organizations in which to involve themselves with.

There are some I have met who come to New Orleans to help as “voluntourists” - volunteering by day and partying and dining in the Quarter at night. I believe at some level they too, are trying to heal (consciously or unconsciously) a ‘brokenness’ within themselves, and their daytime experiences of helping in New Orleans may be creating an opportunity for an opening within themselves to train or instruct; initiate* in their consciousness’ or hearts, even though they may not recognize this for years to come.

Sometimes I perceive that for some who I have met, that have come to help, that they are trying to ‘break’ away from some aspect of themselves that I think they know is shallow. That there is a part of themselves that has not really understood or appreciated what they have been given and I believe that their experiences here can help them in bringing about a deeper level of awareness and healing. For others I have met, coming to New Orleans well, it is an adventure - something to do, a ‘break’ from reality as they know it. And for others, helping in New Orleans is perhaps their greatest break, a break from being self-centered and self-absorbed.

Then there are groups of people such as the hippies, pagans, Rainbow, humanists, a few anarchists, and the religious folks, who are in New Orleans who are deeply committed to helping. They often live in the communities where the suffering is the greatest, serving the neediest of populations, offering meals, clothing, tools for rebuilding, and help. Many have no money or little money and share what they have with each other. Creating healing, through a society of giving and sharing out of the ‘brokenness’ of the community they serve. It seems to me that for them and what they bring to a ‘broken’ community, is an opening made by breaking; gap*.

Last but not least, there are those people who come to New Orleans to volunteer and help, who also work full and part time jobs so that they can use the rest of their available time to work as volunteers helping. Often offering help to the people in the 9th Ward seeking to rebuild or to the elderly. They seek to heal the ‘brokenness’ either of themselves and/or the peoples of these communities, through love, commitment, and the sharing of the skills and resources they have.

At the other side of this spectrum of the ’broken’ who are drawn to New Orleans, to help are the contractors and scam artists. There are numerous stories of cons who put their “con“ into contracting. The ‘broken’ who ruin financially or make bankrupt*, those they prey upon in New Orleans, more often than not, the poor and the senior citizens. These ‘broken’ beings have come here, stolen the monies given to help rebuild homes and lives, done shoddy work, no work at all, or do just enough work to collect most of the monies and then leave the homeowner waiting for months on end for them to return (many times not) to finish their work, so that the long suffering resident is unable to move back in to their homes.

IN PEACE.

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