Saturday, August 25, 2007

Understanding & Time

Just an update today:
I finished two weeks of housesitting for Brian and Susanna last Monday and began housesitting for James and Craig on Thursday. Will housesit for Lyn and David beginning Tuesday. It helps to pay bills.

More than an update:
Work has been, on average, 10-12 hours a day, attempting to fill two positions at once. No, I'm not getting paid for two positions...I do it because I believe in the work. Contrary to what staff and even residents perhaps imagine, I'm not getting rich. If I was, I wouldn't be housesitting every week and still seeing clients in my hypnotherapy practice.

I do the work, for the most part, because I like it and I believe that I am making a difference.

I am also learning why persons in positions of leadership can sometimes appear harsh or non-responsive. I'm learning that everyone (quite naturally) thinks that his or her issue should be top priority. In deciding priorities, however, someone's issue is always going to be listed lower than some other issue. No matter what issue gets ranked lower, for someone that issue is the most important; they will never accept that it shouldn't be given immediate attention.

For example, one person was recently disgusted that I did not respond to his offer to help within three days of his sending me an e-mail offering to volunteer. Of course I was grateful to have another volunteer, but among the days' priorities of meeting deadlines for submitting a grant request of $8,000, of getting signed documents to city hall for a $115,000 weatherization project, of hiring two staff members so that the shelter could actually remain open with staff, of getting drivers so men can make their doctor's appointments, of paying 10 bills to vendors like those who do our laundry and the utilities company for basics like lights and water, his individual e-mail was not high on my to-do list.

For safety reasons and to respect the confidentiality of our residents, certain screening processes are in place. I'm sure the volunteer didn't know that bringing on a volunteer involves about 3 hours of time. Had I responded to him in a timely fashion, something else would have had to give. Perhaps the missed deadline would mean that 71 men a night had to continue with insufficient heating and cooling in the shelter because a contract deadline was misssed.

I'm not complaining, though it would be ideal if folks realized that we are on the same side working for the same cause. Sometimes I have to bite my tongue and accept that, were the tables turned, I'd probably have the same complaints as does the other person and that s/he would likely take the same action that I am taking. I tend, like most humans, to see things from my own perspective and to believe that that is the reality. I often forget to view things from another's point of view.

I don't know, for instance, what went into play for that person to volunteer his time. He may have been deliberating for days and finally decided that this was how he was going to contribute to society. He may have just finished a long night of depression, emerging with this offer of volunteering as his link back to meaning in his life. So of course, his request to hear back from me was of the highest value and importance in his mind.

Meanwhile, from my perspective, other issues were higher priorities. And if I were to not even take any action on any issue, but were simply to take time responding to everyone who presented an issue, I could easily spend over half of my day accomplishing nothing! I think that is part of why leaders have to accept that they will never meet all of the needs and expectations of everyone and why they sometimes just ignore requests to effectively move on with the bigger picture.

Anyway, the dynamics are interesting. I haven't presented them very well here, but perhaps enough to illustrate what I've offhandedly been thinking about. It is something that fascinated me back when I worked with the bishop in Massachussetts as he dealt with 90,000 people and their requests. My level of playing field is only about 90 people and their related issues.

I'm sure that someone out there in the world of academia has a word for studying what I'm talking about.


Anonymous said...

More than someone's priorities moving to the top of other people's "to do" list, I wonder if people just want to be heard. Would a response saying I'll be in touch sometime next week have taken away from other necessary tasks, would just being acknowledged have been enough for the volunteer, for now?

Eric said...

I think the ability to see from someone else's perspective is actually pretty unique. How many people ever think to do that? I think the majority of people are enmeshed in their own realities. Remember Suki in class, and how she was stuck in association mode and simply could not get out of it? Well, she couldn't even do the "Spiritual Healing" exercise because she simply could not become the "observer." Thankfully Patrick showed her a way to do it later, but the point is that a lot of people never even think to consider another person's viewpoint or experience.

The other day my dad was in town (he's moving here in a few weeks) and I made pancakes for breakfast. I never make pancakes, but that's what he wanted, so I thought I'd give him a treat. Well, after I made a couple of them he came into the kitchen, got a plate, and then left, so I said something about the fact that I had heated the oven to keep them warm so we could eat together, and he said he didn't wait for "warm" pancakes when there were hot and fresh ones available.

I tried explaining that this was disrespectful to the person cooking, (whoever that may be, although it was obviously me at the time) because that meant that the cook has to eat alone after everyone else is done. He couldn't see it. All he could experience was the fact that pancakes should be eaten when fresh, and he actually said, "You eat food for the food, not so you can sit and talk." Apparently, he doesn't hold fellowship at the dinner table in high regard. :)

Anyway, this was a mixture of two things: my dad's inability to see another perspective, but also the idea of sticking to a principle. To him, the proper way to eat food is when it is at its peak of deliciousness, and that's just a principle. It's possible the volunteer had the same idea too. I've found that a lot of people are addicted to principles, and sometimes will miss the whole point because all they can see is the principle. In fact, I'd say that most black-and-white thinkers I know are "principles addicts." They simply can't see anything else.