On Serving Others in Disaster: The Power of Showing Up

During disaster recovery, there is often a great need for help. The people who are impacted by the disaster are looking for support, and the community at large is looking for ways to lend a hand. As someone who wants to serve others in this time of need, it’s important that you show up vulnerably and whole-heartedly.

Help is on the way

This means being honest about your limitations (and the limitations of your team) and sharing your own story with compassion. It also means being willing to put yourself in vulnerable situations and allowing yourself to be changed by the experience.

I have a mentor who challenges people to “leave their representative” at home. What does that mean in this context? So many of us try to fit into the very restrictive box of what a responder and emergency manager should do in our community’s time of need. We send our “representative” to the table to say – “Everything is ok. Help is on the way”.

But we do it without feeling and without vulnerability. When our representative is at the table, we rarely tell the whole story. And our community knows it.

a group of community members helping with donations management

Disaster recovery is hard

We attempt to sugarcoat how hard the response has been for us and how difficult the recovery may be for our community. But that isn’t human, and that isn’t real. And if we want real connection and buy-in from the people we serve, we have to lay it on the line. We cannot bring our representative to the table.

Sometimes we think we are doing our residents a favor – trying to be positive and build rapport. But the reality is disaster recovery is hard. It’s hard for the community – especially those inequitably impacted by the disaster. Our communities don’t need false positivity in their time of need – they need real talk about what is needed to surmount the difficult challenge ahead.


We need to show up

When we show up vulnerably and wholeheartedly, we allow our hearts to open and be changed. We allow genuine connection with the whole of our community. We can engage in meaningful conversations with the people who are affected by the disaster and hear their stories with an empathetic ear. This helps us to understand their needs better, provide more effective assistance, and even develop important relationships that can sustain us deep into our community recovery.

Showing up vulnerably and whole-heartedly is not an easy thing to do – it takes courage, humility, and trust. But when we make this commitment, we open ourselves up to a wealth of possibilities that can help us better serve those in need. When we show up vulnerably and wholeheartedly, we create space for healing and transformation to happen.

If you are looking for a way to connect and build disaster resilience in your community, start by showing up vulnerably and whole-heartedly. You might just be surprised at how much impact you can have.

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