What It Is Wednesday: Who Ya Gonna Call?
I have a gift.
Here’s how it almost always plays out, whether you are an intern, an acquaintance, a co-worker, a leader in my organization, a best friend, a neighbor, a man I’d really like to spend more time with. The pattern is the same.
You can barely breathe. In fact, you’re not sure if you’ll make it to morning. And you’re scared enough to admit it.
It’s Sunday night. It’s not just Sunday night but it’s after my bedtime on Sunday night, and I should already be asleep but for some reason, I’m still up. Maybe it’s insomnia or maybe I just haven’t finished my meal-prepping or laundry for the week. Maybe I’m talking for hours to someone who makes me smile, or maybe I have briefing charts to finish for tomorrow, or maybe I just want to wrap up the last few paragraphs of this chapter before I dash for the sheets.
And that’s when you message me. Even if it’s after midnight. Even if you don’t know if I’m online or if I’ll pick up or if I’m long since dreaming in my bed. You take a chance.
And I pick up my phone.
You tell me how awful life is for you right now. Maybe it’s a breakup…it’s usually a breakup. But sometimes, it’s other stuff. Always personal. Always something at home. And I’m the only one who’ll answer the call for help.
Not your family or your friends or your wife or your boyfriend or your pastor. Me. I’m available, and you know I’ll talk you through the night if I have to. And I won’t judge. And I won’t tell.
People who know me seem to know this about me. That I’ll listen. That I’ll help them see another side to things. That I’ll help them through. Some of them will even be there for me on the rare occasion when I show myself at my very weakest and need someone to pick me up and carry through. Some? Well, one…maybe two. That’s not usually how it works but when it does, I’m floored.
This is when we step between the worlds we normally know each other in–no longer colleagues, no longer within the work hierarchy, no longer within the constructs of society or community. We are just two friends, one of us helping the other.
Sometimes the person will be embarrassed later and avoid me, not wanting to be reminded of a weakness. Sometimes a man doesn’t want me to remember him in a state of fragility and shies away from me to be with a woman who knows him only for better. Sometimes I get in trouble on Mondays.
I’m pretty sure that part of why I got off on such a bad footing with a former boss was that on his first day on the job, I was late. No, I was really late. I slept about 4 hours. I didn’t make it to work until after lunch and dragged all day. I took vacation time for half the day, and still dragged as if I were a Sunday night drunk with a hangover instead of someone who’d stayed up the entire night, talking a former coworker with a history of suicide attempts into getting through one more breakup, one more night, just one more minute of one more hour after hour after hour until I could hand this person off to “friends” who could be bothered in the morning but not at midnight. The night before, I’d hesitated only a second, telling myself this person had closer friends, that I was not that close at all. But then no one else answered the call or they said they’d call back in the morning and talk then, and me…I just decided that this person and I were going to be one friend getting another friend through a hard night because that’s what people should do for one another, regardless of their station in life.
The friend tonight says I have a gift, and eventually he tells me that the gift is that I care and people know I care about them and that’s a rare thing these days. Maybe. I know there are people still breathing today because I picked up the phone when I should’ve been asleep on a Sunday night.
And whether my boss likes me or not for being late to work because I carried someone through the literal darkness to morning light, it doesn’t matter. Being compassionate may not be the best thing for an ambitious employee to be, but if I had it to do over, I would and in the same way, with no regrets.
Key Takeaway: The author is available and ready to speak with anyone who needs it even when it’s the dead of night or until morning.