For years following 9/11, I reported on immigrant workers who had lost dozens of colleagues at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant.
Depressed, anxious, and jobless, they nevertheless founded the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), understanding that restaurant workers needed power in addition to charity.
Historically, trauma makes people less empathetic and more individualistic. For good to come out of it requires people who are self-aware enough to get past their own reactions. In the ROC story, those people were a former waiter and a professional organizer.
Laura van Dernoot Lipsky would call them trauma stewards. For Lipsky, stewardship goes beyond recognizing secondary trauma (the collateral damage we absorb in helping others cope) to describe the management of troubles that have been entrusted to us. She illuminates the cycle of reaction to trauma exposure—feeling that we can never do enough, and ultimately trying to avoid the people for whom we claim to be working.
The book culminates in a daily practice for the reader. Trauma Stewardship is for anyone who stays close to the ground as they help to change that landscape.