Today marks the end of day 1 of a 3 day NOVA Crisis Response Team (CRT) Basic Training (

To live up to a promise I made to the folks in LDRS 1015… I’ll blog a bit about the basics from day 1.

We talked a lot about the ways in which those trained to intervene in crisis can and cannot be helpful.  In many ways, you can think about the crisis response team as “meeting folks where they are” and then helping to listen, support, advocate, or otherwise meet basic needs that help individuals move from crisis mode to longer-term strategies for healing.  This isn’t first-responder work.  It can also be considered somewhat controversial.  I hate to break it to you… but some of Illich‘s thoughts apply here as well.  One of the scary realities as an advocate is that even attempts to help might in fact hurt.  Victims can be re-traumatized as they tell their story to trained advocates… the majority of whom are not credentialed (or even available geographically) to provide any kind of long-term care like a licensed mental health professional.  Or, since significant trauma is often marked by a “severe loss of control” (act of violence, natural disaster, human error, etc.), a well-intentioned advocate can even delay even the small bits of “control” from entering back into the picture by arranging details for a victim rather than encouraging a shared “with” approach.

It is just about this time that I start to get that nervous “maybe I shouldn’t do anything, ever, EVER.” kind of feeling.  With the capacity to step on so many landmines… to unintentionally harm, or other, or offend… are we simply to repress all good intentions!?

Fortunately for me in unsticking myself from this conundrum, I have come to believe that while this is a very messy and complex notion… my own personal answer is somewhat simple.  For me it is based on this fundamental admission that I am a fallible human being (sorry if that comes as a shock :P).  I believe the best I can do is to deliberately respond with compassion while trying to remain as inclusive, reflective, and openly human as possible.  Let me comment (or let the Oxford English Dictionary comment) on a few of those words:

  • Deliberately – “Well weighed or considered; carefully thought out; formed, carried out, etc. with careful consideration and full intention; done of set purpose; studied; not hasty or rash.”
  • Compassion -“Suffering together with another; participation in suffering” Wow. Notice that “fix” and “pity” don’t make it into that definition…
  • Inclusive – when I think of this word, I think of as all-embracing, all-considering as possible.  In the aspirational sense, to me it means that all potential perspectives have been taken into account and valued equally
  • Reflective – ” Of a person, a person’s attributes, etc.: given to deep or careful thought, esp. as directed inwards at oneself or of a spiritual nature; characterized by this quality; thoughtful, contemplative, philosophical; introspective.”  To me, this word describes that circular process by which our past actions and experiences inform our current attitudes and our future actions.
  • Openly human – Alexander Pope said “To err is human…” As obvious as it might seem, humbly embracing this defining component of human nature critically opens us to the feedback from others that we might not have the answer, or that our response is just that… our response, not THE response.

While this guide in no way guarantees that I won’t unintentionally offend, assume, or otherwise stomp on the fingers (or civil liberties) of those I encounter… I think it does provide a footing for navigating even those most challenging situations.  To make a connection to some of what we discussed in class – taking volunteerism, or advocacy, or even love and compassion off of a pedestal can feel dis-empowering or even cynical.  I strongly urge us not to pretend that is so.  To me, it is as deeply liberating as it is inspiring.  I no longer need to be a superhero.  I no longer need to pretend that I am capable of such great good that I should feel guilty about each and every minute not spent volunteering, serving, advocating.  I can shed these oppressively pompous impressions and instead embrace that maybe the best thing I can do for both me and the world is to walk through it with open eyes, ears, arms, mind, heart, and soul.  That if I seek to deliberately interact with compassion and to respond in as inclusive, reflective, and openly human a way as I can… then perhaps that is “all” that I can honestly do (said hopefully and not as a diminutive).

Let me close with a favorite Mr. Rogers quote that totally influences all that I wrote above in a much more eloquent way… [when you read “God” below in the quote, I encourage you to interpret or ignore in whatever way aligns with the frames through which you make meaning]

“The purpose of life is to listen – to yourself, to your neighbor, to your world and to God and, when the time comes, to respond in as helpful a way as you can find…from within and without.”