Recently I started a self-challenge project. I'm going to be volunteering weekly on the crisis lines for a local non-profit clinic/community center. I've finished up my training (3 months - phew) and I've been taking calls for the past few weeks. Before I started I had a feeling that this kind of volunteer work would result in my having all sorts of odd little stories to tell - which happens when you're talking to all sorts of people from all over about all sorts of things. About the most basic aspects of life, in other words.
A lot of the calls are simple - sometimes as simple as just making small talk with people who have very few companions involved in their life. You're their lifeline as they go through their day, their check-in point, someone they can depend on to listen.
For some, we're a bastion in a time of crisis - as important as a 911 operator but confidential and less risky. Some callers are facing emergencies, danger, trauma and need someone to tell their fears, someone to give them a non-judgmental (ideally) ear.
A lot of the times the work is as simple as referrals - our city is so full of resources that most of us aren't even aware of! A solution to a crisis or problem may be as simple as directing a caller to a free clinic or to a free legal aid center.
But some of the calls are Other. They're of a more heart-tearing kind.
And after taking an Other call last week I realize that... well, I may not have as many stories to tell as I thought. Because even though I'm a story-teller of a sort, some stories just aren't mine to tell. And some stories are too terrible to tell. And some stories you just don't want to remember, you want to forget that you ever heard them. And sometimes you want to forget that the call ever happened because even though you said and did everything you could think of you can't stop thinking of what you might have done. Or of what someone else might have done better. And when a call ends and the person is still in such darkness that you're not sure they made it out... well, maybe its better to forget.