Earlier today, I had planned on spending this evening writing a really fun post called “What I learned from my first ever talk show.” I will still write that post, but things changed during the day. Even though it hasn’t even been a full day since the first ever talk show, I owe it to today to first write about what happened as a result of the talk show. That is, now, the phones are really ringing.
Through my work in Boston, I have had the privilege of experiencing that moment of being there right when someone desperately needed someone to be there. Of helping someone find the matches to light a tiny little candle. It is an experience that I’ll try to explain to people, looking all around me while I’m saying it because the words aren’t right there to grab. In training I try to tell the volunteers, flapping my arms uselessly, that this work will changes their lives, and even to my own ears it sometimes comes out sounding trite. Like I just made it up to impress. I mean it, every time, but it is so difficult to explain.
Our lines have been open for two weeks now – this is week 3 – and so far it’s been steady but slow. Last night’s talk show, though, was big publicity, and today the phones have been ringing.
I always dreamt about KPR in an abstract sort of way. “Oh it’d be good to have a helpline in Bangladesh.” “Oh, we’re going to be dealing with a lot of issues, I hope we’re ready for them.”
The abstract’s gone. Now, people are calling. Speaking to us. Siphoning off a little bit of their grief. The volunteers are beginning to hear the words, “Thank you, I feel better because you were there.” I am reaching across the phoneroom to hold their hands after a call. I am watching as they realize for the first time that defying anything that makes sense, the caller can trust them.
There’s that glimmer – hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s a glimmer – that we have given people a place to go when they’re tired and alone. I have not yet begun to wrap my mind around how heartbreakingly important that is. What is particularly tender for me in this moment is that our beautiful volunteers will be able to – unwrap, taste in the second before they fall asleep, hold selfishly close to themselves when things are going wrong at school and with friends and in love – the gift of hearing an uncertain laugh at the end of a call, the words “Thank you, I feel better now, I’m going to call you guys again.”
I want them to know how brave I think they are. What an honor it has been, and we’re only a few weeks in.
I want to thank them. But even more, I just want to say, see you tomorrow, see you next week. We have a lot to do.