Surprise! open minds and eyes
28 july 2014
Posted on August 28, 2014 on www.konterragroup.net/surprise-open-minds-o...
Occasionally there are those real life experiences in the field which genuinely surprise us; they add an unexpected dimension to the frame of reference each of us develops through formal education textbooks, and professional standards. We’re far more likely to encounter such a surprise if we start with an open mind and a willingness to connect with and learn from the people whom we are ‘helping’.
The team of humanitarian staff worked in a conflict zone, so they were rather too well acquainted with violence. But then they became a target. A group of thugs violently attacked the team; some were severely beaten but, thankfully, no one was killed. Shortly after the incident, the organization called on me to help team members process the traumatic experience. Two weeks after the incident, I spoke with one of the guards (as so often happens, the guards and the drivers were the worst assaulted). The robbers had tied him up, threatened to shoot him, and then beat him until he lost consciousness. Though physical recovery occurred quickly, emotionally he was still terrified. I asked what kind of help he had received. He mentioned the financial assistance from the organization – he used it to buy rice and sugar for his children. He also visited a psychiatrist in the city who prescribed medication. When I asked if the pills had helped him, he hesitated. Just before he replied, I knew I had raised an embarrassing question, and I realized why. Somewhat ashamed, he quickly regained control, looked me straight in the eyes, and with dignity replied: “No, they did not help. I had to take those pills three times a day, with a meal.” For this man and his family, one meal a day was all they could realistically expect.