I manage the general information line for the City of Long Beach COVID 19 Call Center. Each day, we muster, donning our headsets, manning our laptops, and mentally preparing for the onslaught of calls.
Right now, we are being pelted with vaccine inquiries. Because we are in the 65 and up vaccination tier now, 90 percent of our conversations start something like this: “I’m 76 years old. I have underlying conditions. The mayor says we get the vaccine. Can I get an appointment?”
The callers are, by turns, frantic, frustrated, demanding and impatient. The callers are also patient, kind, humorous, grateful and complimentary. Our load is lightened when a caller takes a moment to say, “I appreciate all you’re doing for our city, and for us. It must be difficult to listen to people all day.”
Indeed, it is challenging, to be patient and empathetic call after call. Sometimes I feel like I’m on autopilot and then a caller breaks the spell and says “God bless you,” or “You’re the best!,” or “It’s so nice to speak with a real person!” and “Keep on keeping on.”
This happens over and over, day after day, and it still surprises me. I jot down some of these encouraging words on a yellow notepad. Inspired by these encouraging words, I recently added my own.
What if I were to:
- Treat others as I would like to be treated?
- Listen, really listen, to others even when I don’t feel like it?
- Love unconditionally, without reservation?
- Reserve judgment and temper my knee-jerk reactions?
- Remind myself that our shared human experience connects us all?
These are simple, yet challenging, actions to remind myself to take. I’d like to commit myself to remembering these things and, for now, that is enough.