What It’s Like to Receive Help from Cranky Do-Gooders

Jun 9, 2015 | Social Responsibility

Do the right kind of charitable work and be more helpful.

I was working with a coaching client recently on her nonprofit job search. When we were discussing what kind of role she’d like to be in, she mentioned, “Always needing a North Star. I’m flexible on the path to get there, but I always need that North Star.” She has truly reached some lofty goals by being flexible and adaptable but staying true to the North Star: the vision, the goals, the bigger picture. Now as she transitions into the nonprofit sector, she’s trying to define a new North Star for herself so she can begin working towards it.

As we discussed more about what she wants in her next career and the types of people she’d like to serve, her energy visibly increased. And her energy is contagious.

This got me thinking about what it’s like to work with individuals who don’t know what they’re “why” is when it comes to volunteering or working at a nonprofit. I’ve worked with some cranky do-gooders in my day. And it is exhausting. As said by Michael Hyatt, “People lose their way when they lose their why.” Anxiety, frustration, and acting out are signs of losing your why.

What it’s like to receive “help” from a cranky do-gooder.

For those living in poverty, some local charities also force them interact with these cranky folks AND make them follow a crazy amount of rules in order to get assistance. The recipients of charity are too tired to define their own North Star because they’ve jumped through 47 hoops in order to try to feed their families.

I met a man who was married with small children and receiving SNAP benefits, in addition to other housing assistance through a local charity. We were discussing what it was like asking for help. He mentioned balancing his thankfulness with the frustration of dealing with some of the employees. “They think they have a sense of power, and it kind of gets to their head. There’s good people in those systems. But there’s also bad people in there that make you feel small, make you feel little. I don’t want to come off as not being thankful, ’cause I am thankful. But at the same time, sometimes you just go in wanting help — nothing else, just help — and then you got to deal with certain bullshit that people put in the way of that. You deal with that while you’re still trying to maintain your sense of pride.”

Chances are those “people that make you feel small” got on a path (that job) and stopped trying to build a life that was fulfilling and joyous for them. At the same time, they’re treating these clients like shit because they have some sort of power of their lives. Fulfilled people do not treat others like shit.

Let’s help each other find our own North Stars.

Night Sky Big Dipper

Photo by Csaba Vero

Charity is about serving people with their multiple needs. A need for love; a need for money and material items; a need for community; and a need for spiritual fulfillment. For those who work at a nonprofit or volunteer or donate, our need for love, community, and spiritual nourishment overlap with those who need food, clothing, and housing. If we’re honest with ourselves, we volunteer or work in this sector because we recognize that we need these buckets filled too and service in the charitable sector is a great way to do it.

In life and in work, the more we can fill these four buckets (love, physical comfort, community, and spirituality), the more helpful we can be to the world and the more joy we have in doing it.

I want to issue a challenge to you. When you encounter those cranky people, pause to connect with them. Compassion, not judgment, is key here. Look them in the eye. Reach out and touch their shoulder (if that’s your style). Ask them what’s going on in their lives that they are so tense.

If you’re one of those cranky do-gooders, find a way to disconnect from your charitable work and re-connect with yourself. Stop trying to hand your shit to other people.

After all, stars shine and bring a sense of awe and wonder. Let’s all bring a little joy to the world by understanding what makes us twinkle, and help bring that twinkle out in someone else.