"Stop Gap", honey, the Hotline a "stop gap." Don't ask "why" to anything. Don't ask for explanations. You're not collecting data and this ain't the Census Bureau. This is a "stop gap" so they can breathe a little."
"Stop Gap" Sally Rush ran the Jackson County Mental Health Hotline during my Senior year at Southern Illinois University. I answered phones as an intern, during my last semester before I graduated with a degree in Social Welfare.
"Listen to 'em, Calm 'em and Love 'em, no matter what. Then get them a place to be taken care of once they hang up."
Sally had been the Director of Mental Health Services for years, and personally supervised the interns in this endeavor. She drilled into us the principles "past
the first "hello." She said, "when you're on the phone, you're words have to come straight from your heart. They can't see your face, can't shake your hand, but they can feel you as if you were sitting right next to them. That receiver in your hand can do more healing for more souls than all the surgeries ever performed."
"When you can speak to somebody in their time of deepest need, and let them know they're going to be OK, you'll redirect their paths. They'll believe in themselves because they believe you."
"But know," she said, "absolutely know this: You're a consultant. You're not their friend, their family, or their dog. They can't touch you, reach you, or even know who you are. You're a voice. You get them to somebody they can see, feel, and hear, somebody that will follow them through their healing. You're the "stop gap." You're the tourniquet around the bleeding heart."
Sally felt that "the first ten seconds of your voice will tell me what the next ten minutes are going to be like. You bring your heart to the phone, and I can hear it immediately. More importantly, the person on the other end of the phone will, too, and they'll know they'll be OK."
"When you leave here, no matter who you're with," Sally said, "your voice will reflect the love within. Carry that love through the sounds of your syllables. Choose your words kindly. How you're heard will be the difference you'll always make, in person or over the phone, from this place and to every place you settle."
Today is the anniversary of my last day at Jackson County, the last day I ever saw "Stop Gap Sally."
I can hear her voice. I hope she continued to hear mine. I never sounded the same after I heard her words.
I hope, after reading what she said, you won't sound the same, either.