#20yrscraigslist: respecting boundaries while helping out

#20yrscraigslist: respecting boundaries while helping out


ordinary people

During the last ten years it’s sunk in that I should do more and more to help people out. Doing customer service, somehow, helps me understand that such help should be done respectfully and effectively. Customer service also helps me understand my own limitations.

Years of reflection helps me understand that I could never help people as much as groups who do nothing but help out in a specific area. That is, if I find a group who’s really good at doing something, I should help ‘em and otherwise stay outta the way.

That support comes in providing the support they really need, which is generally some combination of influence, expertise, and money.

In practice that means that I might speak up in favor of effective organizations by posting something. Either I’ll write something myself, or I’ll post references to their postings, or both.

Another way to share influence is to quietly connect people doing that good work to people who’re genuinely influential, who might actually have some grip on the levers of power.

It’s also very useful to share expertise in communications, which includes ideas regarding branding, identity, and marketing. I’m a nerd, which suggests that I really might not want to do that, it’s a crime against nature. However, I’m finding that such expertise is very expensive, and the bar is low when it comes to orgs including nonprofits and government groups. By that standard, I can provide useful advice, and that’s effective.

Finally, such groups are chronically short on finance, that’s to say, cash. I can help out a little. (People ask me how I go about figuring out what causes I really believe in and what’s the most effective way to support those efforts. Here’s how I do that…)

This is to say that I spend my social capital and financial capital on people in organizations who know how to get stuff done. That respects boundaries; I don’t presume to have the ground truth in any area. It also acts as a force multiplier, where my limited resources are amplified by people who know what they’re doing.

You’ll see me practicing this in areas that I really believe in, like:

Each of these is a long story, a story for other posts.

Why I support areas including these is also a story for another time.

Here, my deal is that twenty years of customer service has got me to thinking that I really do have some social and financial capital that I don’t need, and that I should use it for stuff I believe it.

It should be used effectively for that.

This is not altruistic, it’s just that I’m doing what I feel I should be doing.

You can cue up my usual, that “a nerd’s gotta do…”



David P

I find it compelling that you're a champion for customer service. Lately I've been focusing on how to be kind to those that are working. Truck drivers, phone reps, cashiers, and servers…. For some reason we've built this lie that the customer is always right but that's created an entitlement and animosity towards the workers.

Regina Fletcher

It's refreshing to hear an influential leader acknowledge that it is most effective to tailor the help you offer to the helping experts. As a public school teacher, it continues to shock me how people believe they have so much to offer by generally hanging out and trying to help students in a classroom. Although people are drawn to working face to face with students, doing the grunt work of sorting and organizing classroom materials, sending out follow up texts to families in various languages, and cleaning are often way more effective than having untrained adults muddle through helping struggling students. Thanks for the great post! I'm a huge fan of craigslist, and if I get over my shyness I most post the short college documentary I did about craigslist users in 2001 :0

Comments are closed.