The devastating Camp Fire catastrophe eliminated the entire town of Paradise. Hundreds are dead and gone, many will never be found or return.Nothing brings back memories escaping a fire more than coming back to what was home, and seeing everything forever burned and leveled. Three years ago, my family was evacuated in the Butte fire, and this current tragedy is a powerful reminder.
My friend and her husband felt the need to help Paradise survivors, so their Thanksgiving effort was to haul a big commercial barbeque with tri-tip sandwich fixings to a space outside the FEMA registration and prepare over 500 sandwiches for people who came out of the office and crossed the street. She spoke with victims while they ate. One lady stood before her in her house slippers and told my friend that many outsiders drive up to gawk and post people’s tragedies on facebook pages. My friend heard the woman’s pride as she told her story, so she left her phone in their truck, took no photographs. It wasn’t why she made the trip.
Their conversation is an example of how outsiders think they help a person, but maybe that person has never before asked for help. Suddenly and irrevocably victims are catapulted into a dimension surpassing daily needs, the ‘nothing’ void of existence. Losing everything is a very private transformation, and such loss deserves respect and grieving without gawkers.
In my opinion, respectful compassion allows for personal boundaries, and doesn’t include facebook postings from people who don’t understand such loss. People who aren’t in emergency often rush to help without thinking of consequences from ‘their desire to help.’
Quick heroism can be wonderful, but there’s a fine line between what isn’t noble. Getting public credit for efforts to show good will actually points out other people’s weaknesses and can be humiliating for the victim.
Sympathy’s definition looks at someone stuck in a hole and says, “too bad for you.” Empathy’s definition is ‘climbing into the hole with someone and together figuring out how to get out.
Good reminder: tragedy happen to good people. How can we help without humiliating the victiims?