There’s is some great work being done on a new WordPress blog titled #VTResponse. They are constantly updating what is needed and where volunteers can go to provide assistance in cleanup. They took a moment today to post about “Volunteer Etiquette.” Of course, Vermont is home to the Emily Post Institute, so I suppose it’s fitting we speak of etiquette as volunteers scramble to this scenic state. Here’s a portion of what they had to say this morning:
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the cavalier “get it cleaned up” attitude, and there is a time and place for that, but please remember that you are cleaning up someone’s home. This someone is a person who likely did not anticipate having a ruined home this weekend. There is a great deal of mourning that accompanies disasters, and as a volunteer, it is paramount that you are sensitive to this. You may be there to help clean out garbage from a basement, but if someone wants to tell you a story about every piece in there, it is part of your job to sit and listen.
The sentiments in this post could easily be applied to storm chasers and media that covers these types of events. As much as we, as a society, yearn for pictures of Mother Nature’s power, we need to be mindful that it’s affecting someone’s livelihood, if not their life. I was part of a group chasing a tornado that sped through open fields in Nebraska. Many of us were thankful it simply went through fields and didn’t appear to hit any homes or businesses. While this scenario is certainly preferred over damage to structures, it’s important to remember that field was someone’s livelihood. There is a farmer that makes a living off the vegetation growing in those fields. The same mindset should apply when responding to a flooding event like that in Vermont. As an outsider, you want to rid the landscape of debris and start anew. But that debris is someone’s life and should be respected accordingly. Keep this in mind the next time you turn to help your neighbor (which I encourage, of course). Don’t simply dive in and make decisions for them. Follow the advice from this wise post at #VTResponse.