Client’s Attitude vs. Volunteer’s Expectation of Gratitude

Gratitude emanates from a sense of humility. More often than not, that’s not what our clients are feeling when they enter our program. Most of our clients are in a place of humiliation and shame. They can become defensive and come across as arrogant. Humility takes trust. The lack of consistency with the daily turnover of volunteers makes it difficult to develop a sense of trust. We can work toward breaking through their arrogance by preserving their dignity. A very basic human dignity is choosing what one puts in one’s mouth. Having to eat something that one does not want to eat is shaming, and only reinforces humiliation.

In our current Dinner Program, if a client does not wish to participate in consuming a particular meal, s/he is sometimes made to feel bad…ashamed, judged, as if they are not acting appropriately. Declining a meal in a courteous way can actually be viewed as healthy behavior. Exercising one’s prerogative to make choices that are right for the individual is assertive behavior. In fact, it is empowering behavior. It helps the individual to trust him/herself; his/her own feelings, likes and dislikes. In learning to trust themselves, barriers come down, leading to a more humble presentation.

Nobody’s expectations of other people’s behavior are going to be fulfilled all the time. From my own experience, I have found that “What you focus on expands”. So, rather than focus on negative behavior, it is my hope that we can shift the focus to looking for the positive. By looking for the positive behavior in our clients, they will feel better about themselves and be more likely to behave favorably. Moreover, in turn, our volunteers are likely to have a more pleasurable experience.

From Coordinators Meeting 3.10.05