I remember feeling guilty on my first Team Rubicon operation every time that someone we were there to help lavished us with praise and thanks for what we were doing. We were there to provide aid for those affected by an earthquake and I knew it was truly a privilege to be given the opportunity to actually be there doing something instead of watching helplessly on TV from afar.
The people that were thanking us were sincere yet something still didn’t seem quite right about it for me. It got worse when I came home and people would ask about what I did while I was away. I would try to explain what the situation was and the things that we did but inevitably it would end with people saying something like: “that’s great that you volunteer like that.”
This has been a recurring theme for me over the past five Team Rubicon deployments I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of. The last one I just returned from in Guatemala was unique in terms of a TR operation because the purpose was to provide humanitarian aid and it was in a place that is not experiencing a disaster. Despite the lack of a disaster, parts of Guatemala have an overburdened healthcare system and lack of resources that most people take for granted, which provided ample opportunity to provide critical services to those in need.
What has been an unexpected outcome for me was how much the people that we are serving help us too. Whether you’re former military, you’re a retired nurse who never served in the military, or you’re a selfless civilian, you likely joined Team Rubicon to find or renew that sense of belonging and service. I believe that no matter what your background, we are all are looking for that same sense of belonging and camaraderie and a way to serve others. Team Rubicon has certainly provided that for me and the people we served in Guatemala have certainly helped us as much as we have helped them.
I now understand that to help others is not a one-way street. While nothing is expected in return, a simple and sincere thank you is worth a lot and nothing to feel guilty about.