“Some people are just jerks,” my daughter says, telling us about her most recent shift at a telemarketing call center. Home from college, she and her older brother needed temporary, part-time summer jobs. The call center gig fit the bill.
They could set their own schedules, work as much as they wanted, and earn a decent hourly wage. The only drawback was the job itself—reading a scripted survey for hours and hours to strangers who were either unlucky, lonely, or irritated enough to actually answer the phone.
If your phone rang this past summer at dinnertime or when you’d just settled down to watch a movie, it might have been one of my kids calling. I’m sorry about that. However, I’m not sorry for what the job taught them … and me.
For Ben and Katie, the call center was a short term situation. The job had a clear end in sight from day one. Katie was studying dance and arts administration. Ben was nearly finished with his education degree. They both knew they could endure a couple months working as socially-despised phone jockeys. They had better things on the horizon, and that job wasn’t a life sentence for either of them. They had other prospects.
However, that wasn’t the case for some of their coworkers.
If you’re unaware, our hometown has been labelled the epicenter of the opioid crisis. Nearly all of our relationships are tainted by personal tales of addiction. It’s all around us.
Ben and Katie’s summer jobs, however, dropped them in the thick of it, where many of their coworkers were recovering addicts.
“The girl working beside me got cussed out today,” Katie explains to us. “Some guy screamed at her. Told her to get a real job and get a life. She was about to cry and I really thought she was going to get up and quit. I felt so bad for her.”
In this case, that girl is Sarah.
Sarah is a twenty-something young lady who is climbing a steep hill while the world rolls boulders at her. She’s in drug rehab. She’s battling her addictions while managing to do something heroic: put one foot in front of the other. Every day, Sarah musters the courage to step into a future that remains unknown and terrifying.
Sarah has a GED, but no other training or skills. She doesn’t qualify for much beyond this call center job, but that’s okay. She earns just enough that she can pay her bills and do something she’s never before been able to do: live with some integrity.
Until some jerk at the other end of the phone tried to steal that from her.
Sarah is doing her best. She’s doing it the right way. And then some random tough guy (whose phone number the automated system selected) decided to bully and belittle a girl whose life could go either way at any moment.
“Why don’t you get a real job? Get a life!”
Buddy, Sarah has a real job. She’s trying to get a life … and she’s succeeding!
Too often we fail to see beyond ourselves. We can be petty, judgmental, selfish creatures. We lash out at strangers over some perceived slight, when somebody gets in our way, inconveniences us … or annoys us by making the phone ring.
For me, that ringing phone has become a wake-up call.
These days, when the phone rings from that notorious “unknown caller,” I wonder if it’s Sarah (or someone just like her), preparing to read her script, struggling through the final hour of her eight hour shift, while trying her level best to put some distance between her past and a future she can’t even imagine.
Honestly, I’m still not going to answer the phone (I hate talking on the phone). However, I will lift up a quick prayer for that unknown caller. I hope whoever might answer her call is gentle and kind. Sarah needs—no, she deserves that.
Sarah matters. She is not unknown.
Please share this in honor of all the Sarahs out there.
Buy Bert’s award-winning* book, X-Plan Parenting, wherever books are sold!
*Gold Medal Winner – Top Christian Family & Parenting Book of 2020 by the Illumination Book Awards.