Awhile back, I felt this really strong calling.
It might have something to do with the fact that I sit at home, alone in an office, talking to my cat for most of the day…
But it struck me one day out of the blue… I wanted to get out and volunteer. Do something bigger than myself, meet some new people and maybe do a little good in the world.
(side note: if you struggle with tasks and projects stretching out and taking all day – you might be surprised how quickly you manage to get it done/how much you manage to pack into a shortened day. Something about having a big blocked out appointment can really crank your productivity into overdrive. I digress…)
After a bit of research, I found a place that felt like a good fit. I won’t go into too much detail here… suffice it to say that I volunteer on a hotline and I speak to people who are going through a pretty rough time.
I’ve been doing it for around 6 months now, and most weeks it’s talking to people, filling out paperwork, solving problems to the best of my ability, and chatting with the other folks in the office.
But last week was killer… I was struggling to cope, big time.
I had a series of calls that were breaking my heart, where it was clear the person I was talking to was suffering and I was pretty much powerless to take their pain away.
Then I had someone who clearly processed suffering through anger – and since they couldn’t rage at the people responsible for the pain, they lashed out at the most convenient target… me.
The person on the phone, just trying to help.
I took it personally. I tried really hard not to, but I did.
The whole week, it was like someone let the air out of me. I had no energy, no joy. I wondered if I was even really doing any good with this work – if it was worth it to keep going.
So I reached out to a mentor of mine named Robert Gibson. He’s done similar work in the past and I wanted desperately to know…
How do you cope?
He, being the amazing person he is, recorded me a 20-minute audio exploring his perspective and giving me advice.
And one piece stood out in particular…
I can’t fix your life… I can only get you one step closer to safety.
Here’s why that blew me away…
A lot of us want to help. Full stop.
And we want to help so badly that we often feel like, if only we could just step in and take over for a few minutes, an hour… this person could have some much-needed breathing room and be able to continue on down the path with a lot less stress/pain.
But here’s the thing – it’s not my life. I may have been in a similar place, but that doesn’t mean my solution will work for them.
And even if I know with 5000% certainty that the solution I have will work… that doesn’t mean they see it the same way, or feel like it’s any less risky. It could be downright terrifying.
Bottom line – I can’t make someone do something, even if that something is for their own good.
But I can help them get one step closer to that better place.
I can’t live anyone else’s life while also living mine well.
The phones were ringing long before I sat down at the desk, and they’ll be ringing long after I decide to move on and let the next person pick up that mantle and help.
All I can do is show you I’m here, share some perspective, and help you get one step closer.
And that is good enough.