400+ COVID Phone Calls – What I’ve Learned

In my role as a director at the Capitol Hill campus at National Community Church, part of my responsibility is fostering community between groups within the volunteer framework of those serving the community that gathers with us every weekend. Also, it’s my responsibility to help bridge gaps with the surrounding community that is encamped within the reachable radius of the city block that we are stewarding on 8th & M St in southeast Washington D.C. My immediate supervisor came up with the great idea of finding a way to have people understand that we are thinking about them and that they matter.

With all the technological advances we have seen in recent years and all of the innovation flooding our culture, his advice was simple, yet profound. Get a list, grab some phone numbers, and call them.

My 7th phone call was to a young lady named Mary. While speaking to her husband, my 6th phone call, and he told me that she would really appreciate me just taking the time to call her as well. Not knowing what to expect, as I explained who I was, and Mary started to sob on the other side of the phone. They are small business owners who cannot get into the mall where their store is located. They have employees that they are determined to pay and as you can imagine, builds up quite a bit of anxiety, worry, and fear for the future. With all they had to lose, I remembered all they gave. They consistently donated to the community for events and gatherings and served faithfully every weekend. I said to Mary “I wish we could do more for you all,” and her reply, to my shock, was “you have done more than you can imagine with this phone call.”

So, I decided I would take my phone and use it beyond the list I had been given. I knew people that were not apart of that community that might possibly appreciate being called.

Dr. Brene Brown talks about connection being the “energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued” and I quickly realized that we are underestimating our ability to connect when we limit it to physical proximity.

Here are the top 10 things I’ve been able to ascertain since I’ve now completed more than 400 phone calls to people over the last 3+ weeks:

10) Your voice matters – It’s much less about your experience or your education and more about the fact that your voice equals your time and intention.

9) Smiles can be seen and felt – There was a point in my calling when I started to get tired. I smiled less and the enthusiasm in the other person matched mine. But when I smiled again, I quickly saw their enthusiasm rise.

8) Gratitude is simple, but not easy – Right now, everyone needs a little bit of hope. But as I mentioned before, it takes its toll from an energy perspective. Becoming a “hope dealer” right now doesn’t take a lot of steps, but it takes a lot.

7) Hope can’t be cancelled – Think of all the ways you have hope infused in you. Is there a way that you can re-imagine that in the course of an intentional conversation? Because that event, that vacation or whatever it was you were looking forward to, that same anticipation can be created when the joy of a person hearing from you is realized.

6) Effort is greater than intention – Most people don’t mean to forget others. However, at this time, people are literally alone. Loneliness is a killer. And so many cannot legally be in the presence of others. Here’s where we have to dig deep and realize the distance between heart and hope is the same as our hand and our handheld.

5) People aren’t as okay as you assume – The virus isn’t the only thing that is making people sick…

4) Suffering is more than just being physically ill – There are stories like Mary and her family, dealing with jobs, there is the virus, of course, and there is loneliness. There is an emotional, psychological and physiological reaction to what is going on here. Let’s be determined to discover what those things are.

3) Authenticity matters – Picking up the phone is great. But spend a moment understanding who you are calling. If you know nothing, seek to get to know them. Whatever you do know about them, use it as a tool to deepen your relationship.

2) Significance can’t be faked – Lose your ulterior motive. In a time like this, it will be seen a million miles away. Call because you care. You’ll be remembered because you called. The reason why you called will be etched in their heart and mind forever.

1)  Listening is as mighty as the pen – Have you heard the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword?” The implied meaning is what is written can hurt more than being cut. In this time in our world, what we say is has much less effect than being willing to listen. When you call, state your purpose, ask a great question that goes beyond the surface, then be quiet. You’re saying more than you realize!

Having a grasp on behavioral integrity is critical during this time.  Allow your character to shine. Be a leader by stepping up and stepping out. Be a tone-setter and make an impact in the lives of others by reconnecting in whatever way is most safe for you and your family.


Lyle Tard
Lyle Tard
Lyle Tard is the Founder and CEO of IMPACT Servant Leadership, started in 2018. He has recently completed a 20-year honorable commitment in service to his country and is now a retired United States Air Force member as of 31 January 2020. Additionally, Lyle has obtained his undergraduate degree in Human Resources Management from Ashford University and is completing his certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources. As a communicator, Lyle has spoken worldwide inside and out of the military community. He has motivated young adults at institutions such as Atlanta Leadership College, American University, Harvard Business School and his alma mater, Ashford University. Lyle has consulted leaders in city and federal government in Washington D.C. in organizational effectiveness and trained C-Suite level executives from coast to coast in companies like UST Global. Just as in his time with the Air Force, Lyle takes pride in leading the next generation of world changers. From universities to businesses to churches, Lyle's passion is to influence the world to realize that "Leaders lead best when they serve." IMPACT Servant Leadership aims to transition our most impactful areas of society to realize that achieving power with others is more beneficial socially and economically than asserting power over others. Lyle is also the primary moderator of the Service is Power podcast, spreading the message that "The Power to Serve, Serves us All."

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  1. Lyle! Bravo.
    As someone who has worked monitoring and coaching service in phone have nailed the art of communication and what it takes to connect with another.. people first.
    I’m so happy to hear that your supervisor had decided to reach out to the community like this! And even more delighted to hear of the positive results… and then this article. See the ripple effect here!
    Should this not be posted on Arthur’s wall?
    Thank you for this article that provides much clarity to others‼️

    Each voice has a purpose
    All reasons to be
    We touch the hearts
    So humanly

    • Glad you pointed out that this idea did not originate with me! I’m simply amplifying the brainchild of another. Someone will see and hear this and another ripple effect will occur as it grows and helps motivate others as I was motivated. Not exactly sure what Arthur’s wall is, but feel free to share it wherever you’d like!

  2. Lyle, this is just beautiful on so many levels. I love the vibrant authenticity as you share both the real connections and the real challenges that “empathy fatigue” or “kindness fatigue” can create, and I think there is huge power in understanding the power of holding space and simply connecting with others without necessarily driving for a solution (there is a time for that, too.. but it’s not always “now”). Thank you for this amazing perspective.

    • Sarah, I’m very moved by your words.
      I think sometimes the answer is to just “be.” When people go out to seek solutions to problems, I think many times the answer is just being available or just being present. To take the gratitude point a bit further, there is an overarching difference between simple and easy. Simple does not denote effort. Simple can take great effort and be profound. Many times, if we are to just “be” with people, it can take a lot out of us as well as pour a lot into us and others.

  3. Lyle, how wonderful you are making such a positive difference and having a profound effect on those in your community! Shining the light through a voice and smile on the other end is a gift that keeps giving. Blessings to you and your efforts! Cheers!

    • Thanks so much, Eileen! I’m humbled and honored by your comments!
      I’m just realizing that as much as has been taken away, there is an opportunity. A great mentor of mine, Heather Zempel says “Limitations breed creativity.”

  4. Thank you for sharing this Lyle. People need people and we should take the initiative to reach out when we can; however we can. I’ve been surprised so many times to find out someone was hurting, who I thought had it all together!

    • Agreed, Laurie! Guess where I’ve learned that lesson of people needing people from? Introverts! I’m a wildly extroverted person. However, the intentionality displayed by introverts to think about and care for people in measured ways, in addition to understanding what their own hangups are allowed me to see human connection very differently. And yes…we should probably call the person we think has it all together right now…it’s likely they are the one in the deepest need.

    • Yes, Susan! Social media and other indirect modes of communication serve their purpose in certain ways, but when you can be specific and intentional, it makes a substantial difference. Additionally, I realized as I’ve continued along this path that this validation has gone both ways…I’ve been able to help solidify validation through contacting them, and they have reciprocated in kind by letting me know how I’m uniquely significant to them. It’s a beautiful exchange!

  5. Lyle, Thank You so much for this encouragement to make phone calls-to hear and listen with our whole hearts to other people. Holding space in non-judgment and compassion is a powerful and profound gift to another human being. Listening with our whole bodies with rapt attention may seem so insignificant and yet, when was the last time someone listened that way to you? What a gift this article is! Thank you!! I have been making phone calls to elderly people in my community. I listen deeply, quietly, with reverence and compassion. The experience continues to fulfill my heart and soul. Thank you. You are a treasure!!

    • Laura, You are being the treasure to that community that needs us so badly. Our more experienced friends are more susceptible to what is going on and they need our support just as much as anyone else. Your commentary on listening is spot on as well. I have some things coming out in the near future on this, but when we listen in a way that gives way to a mentality of “discovery” with people, we hear more, learn more, connect more and grow more.