Sometimes an opportunity ignored can turn into a blessing missed. There will be days you are so tired that you don’t think you have another ounce of “Help Me” left in you. Last Saturday was one of those. I had worked all day, from 8 am to 6:30 pm. I was tired, cooked, stick a fork in me, I’m done. However, I checked the Project Dignity voicemail line one last time, “just to make sure”.
Murphy’s Law was in full force. No messages all day. I’m hungry. My cats are hungry. I’m ready for some rest. A message comes in at 6:05 pm. Who calls a place of business after 6pm on a Saturday night, expecting a call back? Really? My first mistake was listening to the message. You can’t unring that bell. A woman caller left a message. Basically it was just her name and phone number. She didn’t indicate what she needed, but she ended the message with the phrase, “I just need someone to call me back”. Her voice was soft and her words trailed off at the end. She sounded more tired than I did. It hit me like a ton of bricks that here was someone nearly at the end of their rope. She needed a call back now.
I called her back to discover that she needed help with her father in law’s electricity bill. Her mother in law had died recently and her father in law was so deeply grieved that he was letting everything go. She was stepping in to mop up and her mop and bucket weren’t cutting it. This isn’t anything I can help with. We serve the homeless in motels. Even if I wanted to give her money, I can’t. My donors and my board of directors expect me to stick to our mission. If you don’t you can empty your bank account in a week and then nobody gets helped.
She wasn’t asking for money. She was asking for information. She didn’t know where to turn. Fortunately, I did. I asked her to give me a little time to check some sources. It took me less than a minute to check my resource list and the internet for agencies helping with utility assistance. I called her back and gave her several suggestions, with phone numbers. The change in her demeanor was palpable. She was up. She was purposeful and she was profusely grateful. She hadn’t really expected someone to call her back on a Saturday either.
After I hung up I realized that my grumpiness over getting a call so late, when I was so tired had evaporated. This woman’s problems were so much bigger than mine (which are really nonexistent in comparison to the clients I talk to everyday). I was given the opportunity to make a huge difference in someone’s life, for very little effort. What a deal!! Do I know how it turned out? No I don’t. We deal with hundreds, thousands of situations. We can’t follow up on all of them. I advise any new volunteer who needs to know how situations we get involved in work out, to find another volunteer opportunity.
How things work out are none of my business. Acting and reacting when I get the “still small voice” that won’t let me go until I do something is my business. Hearing the change in that woman’s voice blessed me beyond measure, because I know it’s a feeling she will keep with her. She wasn’t as alone in the world as she thought and she was also very teachable. The suggestions I gave her led to other avenues that she could figure out on her own. She and her father in law would be alright.