I began on the crisis/suicide prevention line as a volunteer but, as a result of a profound epiphany, my dedication soon turned into a full-time paying job. I managed the crisis line, training volunteers in active listening and ensuring that boundaries were kept in place. The volunteers and I spent countless hours on the phone, at all times of day and night, listening to strangers recount their days and share their grief, sadness, and desperation. We listened, heard their stories, and validated their struggles. Not every caller was suicidal. In fact, most of them were not. But for those that were, we reflected the glimmer of hope they had exposed by reaching out, and did our best to get them through the abyss. For the many more callers who were not ready for finality but felt lost in the dark, we provided enough reflection so they could find their way through to another day.
My days of crisis work slowed as my family grew. As my days became less entwined with human frailty, I developed other passions. I had perfected my pie dough many years prior, and found myself with more time to experiment with recipes and flavors. I had always wanted to learn to quilt but didn’t even know how to sew. After the birth of my first son, my husband gifted me a sewing machine, I took a class, and have been creating and designing quilts ever since. I’ve learned how to forge steel, weave linen, create shrubs, sell vintage wares, and have thorough knowledge of a whole catalog of acronyms related to digital marketing. And plans for learning much much more. Some skills and knowledge become a part of who I am, others slip away.
The acts of learning and labor I connect with the most are those that can, for even just a brief moment, provide some sort of comfort to another. Homemade pie for women in a domestic violence shelter providing a welcome moment of respite; quilts donated to a worthy cause or given to a newborn child of a friend; even cocktails shared with a neighbor, forgetting our troubles for an hour or two, provide benefit to us both.
Comfort comes in all forms. A slice of pie or a cocktail, a handmade quilt, or an anonymous listener on the end of the phone – all can provide that same profound epiphany I experienced many years ago. The realization that what we all crave, what is ultimately the best thing we can do for one another, is often the simplest to provide. Just a bit of light in the darkness, a bit of warmth in the cold.*
*inspired by Father John Misty