Essay Contest: “Yes, I can help.” — Katherine Zhou

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 8.43.36 PMKatherine Zhou (12th grade)

“Yes, I can help.”

10 December, 2015

When you first start work at a call center, the very first rule they establish is that you are not there to give advice or tell the callers what to do. At first glance, this seems to be the very antithesis of the service. Common sense dictates that if they call for help, then one gives them what they want: advice and aid. However, there is value in letting others speak and keeping your own mouth shut.

Three weeks into operating under these regulations, I had received a number of calls. There were lonely old women whose families never visited, businessmen who felt despondent over the monotony of their lives, and teenagers swept up into the mayhem of adolescence and school. Still, not once had I felt like I had made an impact on anyone’s lives. I sat there for three hours and reaffirmed their turbulent emotions. When a call came in, I half-expected it to be one of the regular callers, calling a number they dialed multiple times a day. What I didn’t expect was a woman on the verge of tears, who told me that she was planning on committing suicide right at that moment.

There is no word to describe how helpless I felt at that moment. What can one teenager do on the other end of a phone in order to convince this woman to not down those pills by her side? I fell back on my training and helped her move into a room away from the pills, and tried to comfort her. What she needed was something that could help take her mind off of taking her life, and so we devised a plan together, taking her out of her apartment and into the care of someone she trusted.

Before she hung up, she whispered again and again, “thank you.” As I settled the phone down in the cradle, I had a moment of panic. What if she had trouble in a few hours and she decided not to call? There was nothing else I could do, so I forced myself to put the night behind me. The thoughts followed me around for days, whispering all the possibilities.

The next week, when I came into the office, the shift manager pulled me aside quickly and told me that the woman had called back, and had mentioned how thankful she was for my help, and that she was glad that she had been able to talk to me. At that moment, I felt a sudden release of tension in my chest. Here was irrefutable proof that I had made a difference, even if only in one person’s life. Simply listening and being willing to offer support had been enough to prevent this woman from taking her life. We don’t need to become the ones controlling the playing field to help the world around us; the little things in life are what hold people and communities together.

Updated: December 13, 2015 — 1:48 am
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