After a relatively calm summer and (finally!) a long vacation with my family unmarred by serious illness or unexpected auto repair, I returned to work full steam. Two major projects coming in October and of course, the work of Common Ground, demanded my immediate attention. Requests for utility assistance alone kept the phones ringing nearly every minute we were open in August.
Because of the high volume of calls, our volunteers weren't making follow up calls as frequently. (We try to reach everyone we assist with at least one follow up call. It's not the favorite activity for our volunteers. It takes time, a willingness to leave lots of messages, and a free phone line!) The stack of follow ups was so high last week, I decided it was time for me to take a turn and make a dent in the pile.
So I stayed after work one day, and one by one made some calls. I got a few answering messages and a few unreachable numbers. (Getting "disconnected" numbers is very common -- minutes are added to phone lines only when money is available.) Thankfully, I reached a couple of clients who were doing okay and appreciative of the check-in. Then I got Cindy on the phone.
"I have a job now."
"Great! Last time I met with you, you were out of work. How's it going?"
"It's okay. It's only part-time at a hotel, but it's money coming in."
"Okay, great. Let's hope your hours will increase. How's your little one? I remember your adorable toddler. I even wrote here in my notes, 'very cute kid!'"
At this point -- a hitch in her voice. "Is something else going on?"
Cindy started crying. "I just found out I'm pregnant again. I'm so worried. I'm worried about my finances. I'm so scared."
My heart cracked. "I know you're a good Mom. I remember how well you handled your son. I know you'll be a good Mom to this one, too." We talked a little more about her support systems, then I offered her a referral to our church's toiletry and necessity pantry, knowing she could use the diapers soon. She felt a little better, and I told her to stay in touch.
It was the last phone call I made that afternoon. I couldn't bear to make another. I needed Cindy's voice to sink into my busy life and create a space -- a space reserved being open to another. A space to stop and listen.