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.